Trafficking of Indigenous People in Duluth MN

The Native Sisters Society is holding a forum to discuss the trafficking of Indigenous women in the harbor and the greater Duluth area on Thursday, September 19th at 7:00 pm at Trepainer Hall, 212 West Second Street. The public is welcome to attend.

Photo by Ivy Vainio.


Idle No More Duluth Reyna Crow

Mending the Sacred Hoop Sarah Curtiss or Tina Olson


The Native Sisters Society, Mending the Sacred Hoop and Idle No More Duluth are sponsoring a forum to discuss the trafficking of Indigenous Women and Children believed to be widespread in our harbor and elsewhere.

The Native Sisters Society, a coalition of Indigenous women and allies in Duluth, has been meeting to discuss ways that the ongoing trafficking of Indigenous women and children in Duluth’s harbor and elsewhere might be more effectively addressed. The problem has been relatively unknown in the larger community, but according to group members, it is difficult to find any Anishinaabeg person whose family has not been directly affected by the trafficking of native women in Minnesota.

Tina Olson, of Mending The Sacred Hoop, explains: “History continues to repeat itself; the sale of Native women from the ships in Duluth, MN to the oil fields of North Dakota- contemporary examples of a problem that has existed since at least the boarding school days, these are not crimes of the past. The stereotyping of Native and Indigenous women contributes to making them targets. For some predators it is more lucrative to use women in the sex trade than selling drugs, there is less risk of apprehension or prosecution, the time spent in prison is less if they are prosecuted, and they have a high volume of men who similarly are rarely held accountable, willing to pay for sex and not terribly concerned about how the person they are buying came to be sold.

Society tends to think of women who are trafficked as "prostitutes" who choose the life in light of little or no coercion and we rarely warn girls and young women, or boys who are also affected, about `grooming’ or how poverty and sexual abuse makes them more vulnerable.”

“I lost my best friend to trafficking when I was 15”, says Duluthian Reyna Crow, “She eventually escaped, but it took over 5 years and fleeing to another state. No one would help her. She was seen as choosing, but it did not seem like that to me, I felt she was being lured with drugs and gifts, at first anyway. I was so terrified of the men who’d effectively kidnapped her, one pretending to be her `boyfriend’, I did not know what to do. I begged her to see me alone, but they eventually would not let her leave and I was too scared to go in without someone who had some power to help. They had total control over her and tried to get me too. I had a home to go to, that is why they never lured me into any private place, she wasn’t safe at home so she ended up with them.”

Olson agrees that the brutality and violence of the pimps keeps their victims terrified and under control. So does the lingering stereotyping of women as `outlets’ for men and the often hyper-sexualized image of Indigenous women seen in the media.

Crow points to the role that criminalization plays in ensuring the cause, nature and scope of the problem have not previously been quantified. “Minnesota now has `Safe Harbor’ legislation that would somewhat shield those under 16 from being themselves prosecuted if they come forward as targets of human trafficking. However, this is recent and does not protect older teens or adults. How can they come forward or seek help? Where, exactly, are they supposed to go?” she asks.

What support does exist for targets and survivors of trafficking generally is often not culturally sensitive or appropriate to the needs of Indigenous women, who by most accounts are the population most likely to be targeted and exploited in this way.

The Native Sisters Society and others, including AICHO, the American Indian Community Housing Organization, are working to change that. Patti Larsen, Coordinator for AICHO’s Dabinooigan Shelter, which provides safety and shelter to those trafficked women who are directly fleeing intimate partner violence, is part of the group and says “I am hopeful that in the coming months we will be able to generate the resources that the Duluth area needs to ensure that culturally appropriate supports are available to all victims and survivors of trafficking, Indigenous and otherwise”.

The Native Sisters Society is holding a forum to discuss the trafficking of Indigenous women in the harbor and the greater Duluth area on Thursday, September 19th at 7:00 pm at Trepainer Hall, 212 West Second Street. The public is welcome to attend.

September 19, 2013 at 7pm - 10pm
Trepainer Hall
212 W 2nd St
Duluth, MN 55802
United States
Google map and directions
Kailahna N'y Bruce McComber Linda Michel White Elizabethe Decolonized Occupier Thundercloud Annette Omaña

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