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Task force formed to study missing and murdered Native American women

CASPER — A group formed to study missing and murdered Native American women and girls in Wyoming will begin meeting next week, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.

Gordon said in late April that he’d convene a task force to come up with ways to address the high rates at which indigenous women and girls go missing or are murdered in Wyoming. He said he was prompted to create the group after attending an event at the University of Wyoming bringing attention to the problem.

“I’m eager for us to tackle this issue, as I believe it is imperative to ensure the public safety of all Wyoming citizens,” Gordon said in a news release. “The Wind River Reservation operates under a separate criminal justice jurisdictional scheme — but Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribal members are also citizens of Wyoming. I am committed to working with our federal and tribal partners to ensure the safety of our Native American communities.”

It’s not known exactly how many indigenous women and girls are missing in Wyoming, and that’s something Gordon said the task force will examine. He also said he’d like to see children missing in Indian Country more quickly reported to the state’s Amber Alert system.

The group will include the state’s two tribal liaisons, victim advocates, the Wind River Reservation’s police chief, representatives from domestic and sexual violence prevention groups, the Wyoming attorney general and other law enforcement officials. It will look at the number of missing or murdered native people in Wyoming and make recommendations to improve reporting and safety, according to Wednesday’s news release.

The task force will meet July 24 and again on Aug. 7 in Cheyenne. Anyone can attend those meetings at the Division of Victim Services, on the second floor of 320 W. 25th St. in Cheyenne. Those that can’t make it can listen to the meeting by calling 307-777-7200.

Gordon said he’ll also meet with leaders of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to discuss any recommendations that would require tribal cooperation.

Later in August in Fort Washakie, the task force will also present the Legislature’s Select Tribal Relations Committee with any recommendations requiring legislation.

Policymakers and others have started to highlight the high rates of missing and murdered indigenous women in recent years, with other states, like Montana and Washington, enacting laws to address the problem this year.