by Nina Soni ’25
Published Oct. 20th, 2021
“Missing White Woman Syndrome,” a phrase we so rarely hear, is commonly known amongst the Indigenous community. Gabby Petito, a white female Instagram influencer who was reported missing, was killed by her fiancé in the state of Wyoming, where over 400 Indigenous women disappeared.
Petito’s story touched many all over the world: teenagers took to social media looking for clues, adults sent in tips from friends across the world, and other influencers used apps like Instagram and Tiktok, all with the goal of solving the case of Petito’s disappearance and to raise awareness.
Most people receive their news from news channels, newspapers, and digital media. These outlets influence what people see, hear, and think. Looking at today’s stories, we heard more about the white influencer who went missing than the several hundred Indigenous women who disappeared as well.
According to Newsweek, 710 Indigenous people went missing between 2011 and 2020. Of that group, 57 percent were female. The stories of these women haven’t been heard and are clouded by the media. These women are mothers, daughters, and friends, and they all have a life worth saving.
More awareness must be brought to the cases of missing indigenous women, and the stories of these women must be heard.
Racism in news and journalism is not rare. In fact, many news outlets focus on stories they feel people want to hear most, which leads to the prioritization of news about some races over others. Would the world want to know about the white influencer who has gone missing, or the silenced indigenous women? According to The Salt Lake Tribune, “30% of Indigenous homicide victims made the news, compared to 51% of white victims. Just 18% of the murders of Indigenous women and girls were reported in newspapers.”
Indigenous Peoples Day, which took place on October 10, sparked a lot of attention to “White Women Syndrome.” Nicole Wagon, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, reported her youngest daughter, Jade, missing. Jade’s body was found later, with authorities claiming that she died from drugs, but Nicole felt that Jade had been murdered. However, no attention was given to the family. In an interview with The Guardian, Wagon said that “it makes you feel like we don’t matter; we’re just a statistic.”
There is a drastic disparity between what the media chooses to cover and what they choose not to. By breaking the silence the media has over Indigenous women, many lives can be saved one article at a time.