Let’s just stop searching Gabby Petito’s hashtag on TikTok for a minute and talk about Jade Wagon.
Gabby and Jade were both young women who went missing recently – apparently, both in Wyoming. Their stories are similar and yet very different.
Jade was 23, just a year older than Gabby. She was a mum to MaeLeah and Raphael, and was hoping for a career in the medical field.
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Her family described her as having a “cute, silly laugh” and loving to spend time in the mountains.
Tragically, Jade’s older sister, Jocelyn Bucket, had been murdered in January 2019, along with her partner, Rudy Perez, at their home in Riverton. That double murder remains unsolved.
Jade went missing in January 2020.
It took nearly a month for her body to be found. Her death was ruled accidental, but her mother Nicole refused to believe it.
Already fighting for justice for her older daughter Jocelyn, Nicole took up the fight for Jade. Earlier this year, Nicole told the Gillette News Record that a warrant had been issued for a suspect in Jade’s case.
Like Gabby, Jade was young, beautiful and full of life. But she was an Indigenous woman.
Her Northern Arapaho name was Cedar Tree Stands Alone and her Northern Cheyenne name was White Buffalo Calf Woman.
There is a huge difference in the way that the disappearances of white women and the disappearances of Indigenous women are covered in the media, and that’s become blindingly obvious with the disappearance of Gabby Petito.
Here is a jaw-dropping statistic: in the days after Gabby was reported missing, following a cross-country van trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie, before a body believed to be hers was discovered in a Wyoming national park, TikTok videos with the hashtag #gabbypetito were viewed more than 268 million times.
Here are some more jaw-dropping statistics, taken from a report into missing and murdered Indigenous people in Wyoming:
Between 2011 and 2020, 710 Indigenous people, mostly female, were reported missing in the state.
The homicide rate for Indigenous people in Wyoming is eight times higher than the homicide rate for white people.
More than 50 per cent of white homicide victims get newspaper coverage, but only 18 per cent of Indigenous female homicide victims do.
Not only is there less coverage of the deaths of Indigenous people, the coverage is different.