American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls fall prey to human trafficking at a disproportionate rate, according to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Studies in Hennepin County, Minnesota, show American Indian/Alaska Native women accounting for 24 percent of prostitution arrests, which is more than twelve times their representation in the general population.
Similar patterns were evident in Alaska, where “in 2010, investigators from the Anchorage Police Department and the FBI notified Alaska tribes and villages that sex traffickers were targeting AN girls visiting Anchorage to attend Alaska Federation of Natives events and conferences,” researcher Sandi Pearce wrote in her paper, “American Indian Adolescent Girls: Vulnerability to Sex Trafficking, Intervention Strategies.”
Thousands of new transient workers landed in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, driven by an oil boom starting around 2006. The boom also brought new threats of trafficking and sexual exploitation to the heart of tribal lands and into Native communities.
The harrowing reality facing Native populations made the Tribal Coalitions Sex Trafficking Resources website a prime candidate for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
The Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI), which created the website, built the project as a training and support resource for advocates within 18 different Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions, as well as a resource for victims of sexual and/or domestic violence. Tribal coalitions are primarily Native-run and have “specialized experiences in Indian Country,” however, the coalitions provide services and support to all victims of sex trafficking and sexual assault, according to the site.
An events calendar on the site keeps users up-to-date on upcoming trainings and workshops, such as the 2016 National Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability, or the National Training Institute on Protection Order Practice for Attorneys and Advocates.
The site also features a victim services directory, highlighting resources for individuals in states with a Tribal Coalition, with some states’ directories still under construction.
The site has a portal to request on-site technical assistance or training for tribal coalitions that are also Office on Violence Against Women Grantees. Trainings such as “unique needs of trafficked Native youth,” “responding to the needs of victims of sex trafficking in Indian country,” and “victim centered and culturally appropriate interviewing” are all highlighted as sessions that the Tribal Law and Policy Institute can facilitate for coalitions.
It provides descriptions and links to federal, tribal and state laws on trafficking, which are important for advocates because limitations on jurisdictions and whether or not a perpetrator is a member of a tribe have historically created challenges for prosecuting crimes.
Finally, the website cultivates a blog featuring the latest research and publications related to these issues, in an effort to address the “unfortunate lack of reliable data on the problem of sex trafficking in Indian country.”
The Tribal Coalitions Sex Trafficking Resources website launched in September of 2015, and its initial Office on Violence Against Women’s formula grant will wrap up this year, although continuing the project is a goal. According to Kori Cordero, Tribal Law and Policy Institute’s tribal justice specialist, “TLPI is committed to providing access to free resources, particularly via our websites, so we’re hoping to at least keep it published after the project period ends.”