The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs took up human trafficking of Native Americans at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on September 27, 2017. Photo: SCIA

Mary Annette Pember: Tribes take action to fight human trafficking

With the federal government doing little to address trafficking in Indian Country, tribes are taking matters into their own hands. Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember has more on efforts to protect Native women:
Frustrated with the slow response of federal, state, and county law enforcement agencies to the devastating toll of sex trafficking in their communities, several Native tribes are addressing the problem for themselves.

“The U.S. government has forgotten about us for centuries. We are always last on the list when it comes to funding. Why should we wait for them to help us?“ asked Mike Diver, interim chief of the Fond du Lac tribal police department in Minnesota.

Diver made the remarks during a presentation at a January conference against sex trafficking in Indian Country held in Palm Springs, California. Coordinated by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Violence Against Women, the meeting was the first national DOJ conference on sex trafficking in Indian Country, according to the DOJ in response to an email from Rewire.News.

Diver and fellow Fond du Lac police officer Kelly Haffield presented information at the conference about the new Minnesota tribal sex trafficking coalition, Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST), comprised of representatives from the 11 Minnesota tribes.

Supported by a two-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, TRUST members are working on training tribal police, casino surveillance staff, and staff at local hotels to recognize instances of sex trafficking and help tribes create a coordinated method of responding to the crime and helping victims. Haffield serves as Fond du Lac’s representative with the TRUST coalition.

Accurate data about rates of sex trafficking in Indian Country is difficult to come by. The DOJ recently came under fire during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for its failure to collect data about this activity.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Finding Little Help From the Federal Government, Tribes Are Making Their Own Ways to Fight Trafficking (Rewire.News March 14, 2018)

Government Accountability Office Reports:
Action Needed to Identify the Number of Native American Victims Receiving Federally-funded Services (April 6, 2017)
Information on Cases in Indian Country or that Involved Native Americans (July 24, 2017)

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