CASPER – Gov. Mark Gordon’s task force to address the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous people met for the first time Wednesday in Cheyenne. The meeting, which followed a panel on the topic Tuesday in Riverton, marked the Wyoming state government’s first institutional step to take on the issue.
Similar to a task force on human trafficking created several years ago, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force aims to understand an issue that has gained more attention but, to this point, has gone unaddressed.
Cara Chambers, the state director for the Division of Victim Services and chairwoman of both committees, said in an interview with the Star-Tribune that this week’s efforts resemble the beginnings seen in early conversations around human trafficking, where the state first began to understand how prevalent the issue was in Wyoming.
“We didn’t have data on human trafficking because we weren’t looking for it,” she said. “I think that may be the same situation here. … You don’t see what you’re not looking for.”
Wednesday’s meeting was “quite foundational,” Chambers said, the agenda consisting primarily of introductions between the group’s eight members and the different elements each could bring to the greater discussion.
The team is now trying to identify the scope of the issue, which has been elusive to this point because of a lack of data or a comprehensive understanding of the problem. Government entities are only now beginning to get a sense of the scale needed to address the issues.
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