By: Cheyenne Antonio
Trafficking is not new to our tribal communities. Human Trafficking has been occurring in our tribal communities since pre-colonization over 500 years ago. We often times don’t believe it is happening at our own local community store, or at our powwows, or on social media, or within our own bordertowns or casinos, but it is. It is happening everywhere. According to the Blue Campaign, human trafficking is modern day slavery in exploiting a person through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking is forced labor or sex trafficking. Forced labor trafficking is through “force, fraud or coercion, victims are made to work for little or no pay.” Sex trafficking is through forced, fraud or coercion by a person being forced by another person to sell sex, it doesn’t matter the age however if the victim is under the age of 18, it is always trafficking, the term child prostitute has been used, but the correct term is trafficking victim
The past year, I have spent time attending gatherings and meetings in both our tribal/urban communities where we’ve seen growth of laws around trafficking, and an increase in community education and services such as Navajo Nation. We’ve also seen an increase in direct service providers/community members who are seeking for educational/ training presentations on human trafficking and identifying trafficking and how to support survivors.
As the Project Coordinator for CSVANW- Sex Trafficking initiatives, I have been reaching out to various direct service trafficking organizations, governing entities, taskforces and tribal communities to build more awareness around the trafficking of Native people.
I have been closely working with Street Safe New Mexico an all-volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit that follows a harm-reduction philosophy by striving to reduce the harmful consequences associated with life on the street. Most of the women, and the women that I have directly seen during our weekly street outreach, are Native victims of human sex-trafficking or those who engage in survival sex work. I also see our relatives who are without housing face those every day struggles of trying to safely survive from day to day. The goals at Street Safe are to protect the physical, medical and emotional health of all marginalized women. Street Safe does this by conducting street outreach several times a week, where they provide snacks, feminine hygiene products, pepper spray and personal sanitizing items. Our CSVANW staff, along with the NM Tribal Human Trafficking Taskforce have volunteered and worked with Street Safe on street outreach and collaborating to train our advocates, members, and communities.
I am passionate about the work around trafficking. Last March, in 2017, during a trip home. I was going about my day, putting in gas at the Giant gas station along 550 in Huerfano (a sacred space that is currently fracked), I experienced a young Chicana woman following me and forcibly jumping in my car- begging for a ride to Albuquerque. I later seen her jumping back into an oil and gas Ford-250 truck. I was honestly scared. I did not know what to do when she approached me. The best thing I could think of when she came to me was to call the cops but she quickly declined and left. As I went back to work and begin doing outreach with Street Safe, I have gained more confidence around my ability to directly help those who have been trafficked.
I often find myself being the only Native person doing the street outreach on Friday nights. I’ve encountered seeing my own relatives on the streets. I often share jokes with them, to lighten the conversation, and they are often relieved to see another Native relative that they can confide in without judgement.
In November and December 2017, the New Mexico Tribal Human Trafficking Taskforce hosted the Womxn Donation Drive for our Native relatives that are being served by Street Safe.
The NM Tribal Human Trafficking Taskforce would like to thank the UNM Indigenous Nations Library Program, First Nations- East Program, BIA- Victim Services, Awake and Aware, Tewa Women United, UNM Cancer Center, CNM Library- Montano Campus, CSVANW, Lorriane Edmo, and Dion Lapham for collecting donations for Street Safe’s outreach. Although street outreach is a small part in connecting with those who may be experiencing trafficking.
CSVANW is proud to acknowledge Honorable Delegate Brown and the Navajo Nation Council for recently passing Legislation No. 0117-17 which amends the Navajo Nation Criminal Code Title 17 to enact the 2017 Law Against Human Trafficking. CSVANW is honored to work with direct service providers such as New Mexico Street Safe, the Lifelink, New Mexico Office of the Attorney General’s Office- Human Trafficking Department, Tewa Women United, First Nations EAST Program, BIA- Victim Services, Strengthening Families of Shiprock, Tribal Gaming Commissions and our local communities and relatives who continue to support tribal initiatives in bringing more awareness of trafficking happening in on our Nations/Pueblos.
Human trafficking is a serious issue. And we need our tribal communities and Nations to talk about it. We have seen more cases of criminal child sexual abuse- cases that are very similar to trafficking- because of the opioid and meth epidemics that are tearing apart our families.
We know that trafficking has a historic legacy of violence that continues to haunt our Native relatives from the assimilation acts by the federal government to the Navajo Long Walk and slave trades in the southwest, it’s important that our Nations and Pueblos come together to create services to provide for victims.
What are the signs?
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Burns, Broken bones, Concussions
- Poor mental health behavior (Fearful, anxious, nervous/paranoid)
- Avoids eye contact
- Signs of sexual abuse/ physical restraint
- No personal possessions (ID, money, phone)
- Not allowed or able to speak for themselves (Third Party might be present)
- Loss of sense in time
- Brands of tattoos or burns.
Where sex trafficking is happening?
- Strip Clubs
- Bike Rallies
- Escort Services
- Massage Parlors
- Shopping Malls
- Truck Stops/Local gas stations
- Homes/ Community
- Man Camps
- Major city/community events (State + County Fairs)
- Powwows (Gatherings of Nations)
- Internet + Social Media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram Craigslist, Backpage )
What to do:
Call or text 505-GET-Free or contact your local service provider. If it is a dangerous situation or a victim needs immediate safety, please call your local law enforcement.
Ways to Get Involved:
Join the Blue Campaign on January 11, 2018, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign and other organizations and individuals across the country in wearing blue clothing to encourage greater public awareness about human trafficking.
Participating in #WearBlueDay is easy. All you need to do is:
-Wear a piece of blue clothing on Thursday, January 11 and encourage your organization, colleagues, friends, and family to do the same. It can be a hat, shirt, dress, suit, tie, and/or scarf – anything blue!
-Post a photo of yourself and others on social media wearing blue with hashtags #WearBlueDay and #WeWearBlueBecause.
-Finish the statement #WeWearBlueBecause to share why you are participating.
Attend the 2018 Human Trafficking Conference:
Lifelink Advocacy Center is now OPEN in Albuquerque located on 200 Oak Street open between 8:30am – 2:00pm.
Services provided for Human Trafficking:
PO Box 6094
Santa Fe NM, 87502
Street Safe New Mexico
P.O. Box 51682
Albuquerque, NM 87181
First Nations: East Program
Sex Trafficking Lead Case Manager
Sex Trafficking Case Manager
National Human Trafficking Hotline:
StrongHearts Native Helpline:
Phone: 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483)
The Life Link Anti-Human Trafficking Initiative:
Phone: 1-505-GET-FREE (1-505-438-3733)