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Taskforce Releases Data On Missing And Murdered Indigenous People In Wyoming

Missing And Murdered Indigenous People

Gov. Mark Gordon's Taskforce on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People has released a report on the severity of the problem in Wyoming. It found that Indigenous people make up 21% of homicides in the state even though only 3% of the population is Indigenous.

But Wyoming Survey and Analysis Research Scientist Emily Grant said these numbers could be underestimates. For instance, murder rates could be off because coroners misclassify victims.

"A lot of times, it's not necessarily checked with people from the community, a family member or something like that," Grant said. "So it's really likely that they could be miscategorized as Latino, White. And then you know, that if it's the wrong race on there, it doesn't show up."

Grant said, this is why law enforcement needs more training, and families need assigned advocates to guide them through the complex web of legal jurisdictions.

Grant said she also looked at media portrayals of such cases in Wyoming.

"It's overly graphic," she said. "So you know, if [a White person] dies with firearms, you know, they may say 'a gunshot wound.' But in Indigenous cases, we're seeing like, very graphic depictions of the body of the crime scene. The circumstances that are just extra violent."

"Being considered less than, that's unacceptable," said Fort Washakie Representative and Northern Arapaho citizen Andi Clifford, who sits on the state's Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Taskforce. "The media needs to do a better job. That's somebody's son, that's somebody's daughter, that's somebody's dad. They were loved."

In the last ten years, 710 Indigenous people went missing in Wyoming, the majority were girls. The data showed they went missing from 22 of Wyoming's 23 counties. Clifford said, this isn't a Fremont County problem; it's a state problem.

"Yes, Wyoming has two Indigenous tribes," she said. "But there's a multitude of Indigenous tribes in all counties. Because we are Americans, we go for jobs, we go for education, people fall in love, they move to towns in Wyoming. And so that may be a little surprising, too. But we're all over, we are all over."

Nine Indigenous people are missing in the state right now.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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