ACF Programs Partner to Combat Human Trafficking in Native Communities

By Katherine Chon, Director, Office on Trafficking In Persons, Jeannie Hovland, Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans

“It is not enough merely to denounce this horrific assault on human dignity; we must actively work to prevent and end this barbaric exploitation of innocent victims. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we pledge to continue the battle to abolish modern slavery and restore the lives of those affected by human trafficking.” - President Donald J Trump, Presidential Proclamation on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2019

The Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) are actively working together to bring awareness, highlight resources, and ultimately prevent human trafficking in Native communities. This partnership started several years ago, with outreach to tribal and indigenous Pacific Island communities, and has resulted in more resources targeting these overlooked populations.

Like the rest of the country, this crime is hidden on reservations, villages, and other native communities. Only a few tribal governments have passed their own laws to prosecute human trafficking, and identifying or even estimating the number of American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Pacific Islander human trafficking victims is challenging. However, when you speak to Native community members, it is clear that many have experienced or witnessed potential cases of human trafficking. Knowing victims are out there drives our offices to actively engage in conversations with our tribal advisory committee and at tribal consultations to help bring awareness, identify gaps, and guide the creation of future resources to help human trafficking victims and their families.

Connection to one’s community, environment, and culture are vital to Native peoples and help them face challenges together. This is why ANA funds community-based projects, allowing each group to determine exactly what their needs are and how to address them. The National Human Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) also hires consultants who identify as Native American to support our development and delivery of technical assistance on human trafficking. They are available to help tribes and organizations bring relevant training to local communities that are culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed.

Last week, we hosted a national webinar to help spread awareness, and later in 2019, OTIP will launch SOAR for Native Communities, a free online training for professionals working in or with Native communities. The training was tested with Native American audiences and will incorporate cultural practices and perspectives from Native Hawaiians and indigenous Pacific Islanders.

Native communities know that human trafficking is out of step with their indigenous cultures, and more and more, we’re seeing communities work to identify and prevent it. We hope that you are able to join us in active efforts to engage on the issue of human trafficking and help abolish modern-day slavery.

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