Where's the media attention for missing Indigenous women?

Indigenous Missing and Murdered
Jeannie Hovland, the deputy assistant secretary for Native American Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, poses with a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women mask, in Anchorage, Alaska, while attending the opening of a Lady Justice Task Force cold case office in Anchorage, which will investigate missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Mark Thiessen | AP 2020

When Gabby Petito, a popular Instagram personality, went missing while traveling the country with her boyfriend, the national media lit up with the news. The coverage was nonstop as the search for her consumed her friends, family, and the country. Some scholars call this “missing white woman syndrome” and say it happens regularly. Is the media solely to blame?

Data collected by the state of Minnesota show that about 15 percent of Minnesota’s female missing persons cases every month are American Indian women and girls. In any given month from 2012 to 2020, 27 to 54 Native American women were missing in Minnesota.

Minnesota recently established a statewide government office dedicated to addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as a task force looking into missing and murdered African American women and girls.

MPR News host Angela Davis focused on Minnesota’s promise to Indigenous communities to redress the long-standing dismissal of missing and murdered Indigenous people. State Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, joins her along with other activists and a media watcher to discuss a better way to turn our attention to this phenomenon other than relying on news coverage and public interest. 

Editor’s note: MPR News with Angela Davis will talk about the task force on missing and murdered African American women and girls on a future show. 

Guests:

  • State Sen. Mary Kunesh is Minnesota’s first Indigenous female state senator and a champion of the bill that created the new office. She is a DFLer from New Brighton.

  • Marisa Miakonda Cummings is the president and CEO of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center.

  • Nicole Matthews is the executive director of Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition.

  • Andrea Figueroa-Caballero is an assistant professor of media and diversity at the University of Missouri.

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