January 22, 2018
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Many tend to believe these crimes don’t apply to us because we live on isolated Indian reservations. The truth is our people are just as vulnerable to victimization as anyone else.
This past weekend there were countless women’s marches across Turtle Island. This movement amped up awareness efforts the day after the presidential inauguration in January 2017. Many women are marching in response to the election of the 45th president of the United States, a man who openly displays misogynistic tendencies and has admitted to sexual assault.
Many Indigenous women joined these marches to bring attention to our missing female relatives, many of whom have likely been murdered. It’s also possible that many of our missing women have been abducted, held hostage and trafficked by evil people. We must make a collective effort to inform our women about the dangers they may encounter.
Many missing women have not been seen nor heard from for long periods of time. The list of unsolved murder cases involving Indigenous women continues to grow. These incidents have sparked many Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women awareness campaigns. The hashtag #MMIW is often used to identify these campaigns.
Social media is used by many to share information about missing women. It’s heartbreaking to see photos of our beautiful women who are missing posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Sadly, many missing women were later found dead by law enforcement or family members. Some murder cases were prosecuted, while others remain unsolved.
In this era of open acceptance of misogyny and racial discrimination by high ranking government officials, its no wonder that instances of missing and murdered women have increased. We are in an era where it has become dangerous for Lakota women to travel alone, even in South Dakota. Again, we have to teach our young women and children how dangerous it can be, both in this state and across Turtle Island.
This brings to mind a story shared with me about places where Indigenous women risk being abducted. Details about this story are generalized to protect the victim. Indigenous people living in South Dakota must always be aware of what is happening around us, especially in public places.
Young women who hitchhike in strange areas are at high risk for abduction. There are no safe places for Indigenous women traveling alone or with small children. Even public truck stops in South Dakota are no longer safe.
For example, recently a young woman was trying to get home and wound up at an unfamiliar truck stop. Soon several men enter the truck stop restaurant wearing masks, the kind that motorcycle riders wear. They sit at a table where the young woman can hear them talking.
The topic of their conversation is what they do with Indigenous women after they abduct them. The young woman grows afraid and calls a relative, who tells her to stay there until someone arrives. She leaves her table to visit the restroom. Upon returning to her table, she takes a drink of her coffee. She immediately feels the effect of an unknown drug. She wants to pass out and struggles to keep her eyes open. She consciously fights the effects of the drug because she knows if she passes out, they will take her.
Soon, she receives a call from the relative who is waiting outside. She runs to get in the car, where she immediately passes out from the drug that was slipped into her coffee.
Be careful when you travel. Never leave your food or drink unattended in a public restaurant. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Check in with family at every stop you make.
In this evil era of slavery and human trafficking, none of us are safe.
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