Does Wyoming Have An Epidemic Of Missing Women?

The tragic disappearance and death of Gabby Petito and the resulting social media firestorm put the state of Wyoming under a microscope. Millions watched in horror as officials combed vast stretches of Wyoming's remote wilderness, eventually uncovering the remains of the 22-year-old #VanLife influencer (via AP News). While hers is perhaps the most famous of lives to be claimed in that region, the sad truth is that this turn of events is in no way an anomaly.

In fact, the haunting reality is that finding young females murdered and/or missing in the state of Wyoming is so widespread it could even be considered an epidemic. Insider reports that over the course of the past decade alone, hundreds of women and children have vanished in the wide Wyoming wilderness never to be heard from again. Their stories have been but a whisper, rarely spoken of publicly, and barely covered by major media outlets.

What makes these other hundreds of disappearances less noteworthy to news sources? The truth behind this phenomenon is one of racism and systemic oppression hundreds of years in the making.

In under a decade, more than 700 Indigenous people have vanished in Wyoming alone

The most recent study published by the local Missing and Murdered Indigenous Task Force suggests that there have been at least 700 incidents of Indigenous People disappearing, per InsiderBlack Hills Fox goes on to explain that while Native Americans only account for about 3% of Wyoming's population overall, they represent 25% of all murder victims statewide. Of the 498 total murders that have been counted in the state's totals between 2000 and 2019, remains have surfaced for approximately 71 Indigenous men and 34 Indigenous women. Hundreds more disappearances remain unsolved with the majority of the missing being woman and children. In a riveting interview with County 10, Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) Task Force member Letara Lebeau summarized the plight with the following quote.

"Most of these murders are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. Because of the lack of communication between state, local, and tribal law enforcement, it is difficult to begin the investigation process. These numbers speak for themselves, yet it is surprising to me how few people know about these events."