The number of victims of human trafficking in this state is disproportionate among Native Americans, according to the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force. However, they acknowledge there are gaps in data, which is leading to gaps in resources.
According to the task force, 436 victims have been served since 2016. But that number is much higher than reported, because the task force doesn’t have data from tribal nations. And those nations aren’t getting necessary coverage to help the problem.
In its second annual meeting, the various state, tribal, and social organizations involved in stopping human trafficking met for some much-needed updating and networking.
“We are able to identify our shortcomings; what is needed, where our gaps are, and finding those agencies and entities that helps us address what we, as organizations, are trying to provide,” Maggie’s House Director Pauletta Red Willow said.
Human trafficking is far from an isolated issue. Reports come from all across the state, and each region and each tribe has its own laws and protocols. Meetings like this lead to collaboration.
“Just like our human trafficking laws that one reservation has, maybe some other reservations aren’t that far ahead. So we can identify that and say ‘don’t re-create the wheel. Here’s one that’s already started,’” Red Willow said.
One resource is Home Free, a transportation company that helps runaway or unaccompanied youths.
“Often, people call them ‘hidden in plain sight’, so people may not recognize or know that young people are homeless,” Susan Frankel of National Runaway Safeline said.
Earlier this year, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe established a response team for curtailing human trafficking – a 24-hour operation that offers services and resources to victims.
The task force and its member organizations hope to create a central data base, either through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or some other agency, for confidential data collection.
Efforts are being made now, but there are no requirements to partake.