The Big Business of Indian Gaming and Disappearing Indigenous Women and Children

 

This is the sixth in a multi-part series that will chronicle my journey into the world of sex-trafficking and murder in Indian Country and beyond. The first can be read here, the second, third, fourth and fifth. If you’ve already read those, scroll down until the font change. 

Headlines, hashtags, and public service announcements don’t provide a way to explore the nuances, relationships and historical responsibilities involved in the discussion and eradication of the trafficking of vulnerable Native American children and women for sexual exploitation. I hope this series does that and more.

I became consciously involved with the subject in September 2017 when I was called by Ancestors to find a young Navajo woman who had been disappeared from the reservation and was believed by a Navajo cop to be in the Phoenix Metro area. I didn’t know it at the time but finding a body dump on the same reservation in 2014 and my presence at Standing Rock in 2016 laid the groundwork for me to walk into a multinational sex-trafficking operation with connections that span 45 countries. Telling how this story unfolds requires discussion of history and the repercussion arisen out of it, trauma experienced and held by peoples and the natural world, realities of misogyny, sexuality, institutionalized racism, the reemergence of what I call ‘the medicine way’ and where all those things converge in our current era. There will be no naming and shaming here but there will be solutions offered as the series progresses. 

Recent headlines about sex trafficking operations being interrupted in Florida during a sting in which Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, was arrested for soliciting prostitution and the prosecution’s protection of Jeffery Epstein also in Florida have momentarily brought sex trafficking into the national consciousness. 

Like the #metoo movement, the celebrity names attached to these arrests and outcry inspire brief discussion but there appears to be as little interest in publishing information describing the how the trafficking operation came to be and why it persists, as there is to prosecute the right people. The language remains ‘celebrity busted’ and whatever salacious details that will sell advertising. We, the readers, want the comfortable short-read and then to move on.  “Seventeen Slaves Freed” isn’t the headline that will engage us. It’s so far removed from our collective consciousness that to bring it under the microscope even in a sanitized ‘newsworthy’ manner is more cringe-worthy than sellable. It evokes collective memories and  histories of, at least here in the US, the African slave trade that have yet to be healed. 

On February 26, the 1A.org shared as the lead-in to their discussion about the Kraft-sting, from the New York Times,

that law enforcement “estimated the trafficking ring to be a $20 million international operation” in which “men paid between $100 and $200 for sex.”

We don’t know how many ‘massage parlors’ or other brothels were involved in this sting but according to the NYT article mentioned above, the investigation spanned four counties in Florida and included connections to New York along with the mention that the women involved were from China. However, I’m going to use the two states and $20 million figure to paint a picture.  

Here, I’m also trying to keep in mind the psychologies of ‘too much’–too much information, too many victims, too much distance and too far removed to care–and psychic numbing. Psychic numbing is the phenomenon defined by Paul Slovic where, “as the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy, our willingness to help, reliably decreases. This happens even when the number of victims increases from one to two….It means that there is no constant value for a human life, that the value of a single life diminishes against the backdrop of a larger tragedy.”

In this case, though, the painted picture is a large tapestry and cannot be contained in a single, small frame. So where I’ll start with my own experience of psychic numbing, $20 million dollars and two states in the US to create a comparison and attempt to work from there. 

In September 2017, I went from Montana to Phoenix, Arizona thinking I was going to find and perhaps rescue one missing Navajo woman. Within a week, that number increased to at least six people–four young adults and two children–and by the end of the fourth month, that single digit had increased into the four digits.  What I’d been brought into wasn’t just a case of one missing woman but multiple hundreds held in captivity to be sold for sex.  

Within days of arriving in Phoenix, using what information there was available to me (and to law enforcement, by the way), I found a pattern in reported missing persons  cases from Arizona and New Mexico. I was certain at least four of the young women who’d been recently disappeared were being held together and, though taken at different times, were set up by the same people. It made no sense to me why law enforcement would ignore my attempts at information sharing and wouldn’t engage with me. At the time, the only reasonable explanation was that of institutionalized racism. I told myself more than once, “They just don’t give too fucks about brown skinned kids.”

That changed the moment I was led to the Talking Stick Resort where I stayed for days, watching. Watching tribal police have congenial conversations with pimps, watching security facilitate sexual rendezvous between prostitutes and buyers, and watching those I’d identified as federal agents watch all of this. I was certain I’d find Ariel there and created a rescue plan that I was ready to put into motion the moment she agreed to leave with me. I practiced, I drilled, I rehearsed, I parked my car strategically, I was ready. 

What I wasn’t ready for was the understanding that what I was witnessing was not isolated, but systemic. When I was first interviewed by the FBI weeks prior to the Talking Stick experience, I was clear in my understanding that this network had been in operation for decades, was run by men and women, centered in the Phoenix area, and involved agreements formalized at Standing Rock that expanded it’s previous reach. What I subsequently learned, in part through the Talking Stick experience, was that my understanding was only the tip of the iceberg and that my involvement began long, long before September 6, 2017. 

This network has indeed been around for decades. When and where it began exactly I can’t say. However, it’s current iteration is a formal partnership between what appears to be the Sinaloa cartel and the National Indian Gaming Association In the United States alone there are 136 class III casinos that are directly involved or indirectly complicit in the prostituting of Indigenous and other women who have been disappeared elsewhere for that specific purpose.  In Canada, First Nations-associated casinos in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario have also been identified.  Other non-native casinos in both countries, managed by a few specific companies, are also participants.  

Let’s come back to the idea of a $20 million sex trafficking operating in two states out of small massage parlors.  We’re going to do some quick extrapolating here with the understanding that math was never my strong suit and we don’t know all the facts.  These 136 casinos are sprinkled across the country so I’ll pick one state, Washington, to work with here. For shits and grins, let’s cut the $20 million in half to $10 because I’m only using one state as an example, not two. There are about thirty Indian casinos in Washington State that have been identified as having direct ties to sexual slavery. Thirty casinos x $10 million. With me so far?  There are other possible factors to consider like the size of 30 casinos, potential number of johns, and their number of bedrooms and ‘client’ turnover compared to the space of a massage parlor but I’m not considering those at this point. Thirty casinos times $10 million dollars = $300,000,000.  Now, this is just supposition based on an idea grounded in little facts. We have no way of knowing how much money is generated through the prostitution of slaves in any one casino or those spanning a state, never mind those spanning over 25 states.  The point here is that there is big money, massive amounts of money wrapped up in the infrastructure of organized crime, and entirely legal gambling.  

The larger point is this:  First Nations and Native American women have been intentionally disappeared for decades from across the continent. Some of their stories are slowly being told and heard. However, those consigned to sexual slavery have largely been missed and the current cries for ‘more awareness’ ignore the open secret in Native communities and the ‘in sight but out of mind’ slavery of indigenous women in indigenous-based gambling establishments. 

This past summer I had a conversation with the CEO of a  management company. His company is based in the US but manages a First Nation’s casino in Manitoba. When I told him this particular casino had been identified as participating in the sexual trafficking of Indigenous women, his immediate response was, “That’s not our ethos.  If you have proof, then….”

No one is going to put in their mission or vision statement or description of entertainment options a reference to the collusion with organized crime or participation in the sexual slavery of kidnapped or trapped women.

However, the proof is on every security camera in each of these casinos. It’s in the stories and institutional knowledge of maintenance, security, and housekeeping and wait staff, croupiers, bartenders, customers and, in the US, federal law enforcement.  So why has it not been addressed? Why hasn’t there been an intervention? Is it because ‘there’s no constant value to human life’? Is it because the problem is too expansive for siloed, compartmentalized law enforcement organizations to competently or efficiently intercede? Is it because it’s ‘just prostitution‘ or ‘they’re just whores‘, ”they’re just Indians’ or ‘they aren’t terrorists‘ or because they have brown skin? Is it because those in the larger non-Native community don’t have enough awareness? If they did, would they become allies? Is it because the reckoning that comes with the acknowledgment of the whole truth is more than most can bear? 

I believe that it is a combination of all of those things and with that understanding a new conversation can emerge. 

 

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The Ties that Bind Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

artist: Nicholas Galanin

What is it that can bring together a diverse crowd that includes:

  • judges from the Navajo bench and the New Mexico Court of Appeals;
  • state senators from Arizona, Colorado, North Dakota, North Carolina and Ohio
  • provincial representatives in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver
  • lawyers from West Virginia, Kansas, Wisconsin and South Dakota
  • a Museum of the American Indian Board of Trustees member
  • a nationally recognized Navajo author and educator
  • 37 elected Native American and First Nations officials, including governors and chiefs
  • journalists
  • CEOs & upper management of international oil, entertainment, and manufacturing companies
  • heroin wholesalers
  • an English jeweler
  • a few Ambassadors
  • rock musicians, a boxer and a flautist
  • some nuns
  • some teachers
  • AIM members across the country
  • police sprinkled from small towns like Odessa, TX and big cities across the continent
  • a favorite fashion model of Georgio Armani
  • a custom machining shop in Illinois
  • a sand and gravel company in Montana

What do military bases in the US and mass graves in the US have in common?

What has scared regional chiefs, environmental activists, educators and allies into silence?

What would bring a young car wash attendant from Northern New Mexico and a Proud Christian in Montana together to cause a third woman’s death before she could be tamed and turned out?

What would lead an FBI agent associated with the Southern Arizona Anti-Trafficking Unified Response Network to tell someone in organized crime, “this lady knows too much”?

What inspires people to intentionally breed children to be sold into sexual slavery?

What has brought together Ancestors from over 400 First Nations and 400 Native American tribes–going as far back as those who inspired their creation stories–and one woman?

 

 

Those Who Tell Too Much; Ancestors and Missing, Murdered Women and Children

artist: R Blackwater

In the introduction to this series on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children, I mentioned that this unfolding of the Fuckery and I

 requires discussion of history and the repercussion arisen out of it, trauma experienced and held by peoples and the natural world, realities of misogyny, sexuality, institutionalized racism, the reemergence of what I call ‘the medicine way’ and where all those things converge in our current era.

I think the thing that frightens people the most is the reemergence of the ‘medicine way’. It means recognizing that beliefs and ways of the world are more than theoretical or ceremonial, beyond the scope of encultured ‘sacred space’, and are neither ours nor out there. It creates an inescapable ‘in your face’ expression of truth that makes beliefs true or untrue, redefines things of spirit held as personal or tribal into universal, and cuts the commodified crap connected to the aforementioned in a breath. It means that death isn’t what we’ve thought it is, that everyone really is connected beyond super-simplified popsychospiritmeme-ified oneness. It means we have responsibilities beyond what we’ve presumed revealed within sweat lodges, by the one-liners of protest signs and attention-grabbing headlines. It means prophecy can be true, cosmologies can crumble, and we really may not who or how (or why) we think we are.

It frightens lawmen, lawyers, politicians, medicine men, journalists, folks who once called me friend, and those who operate the Fuckery. It’s why a tribal historical preservation officer nearly scorched his shorts when I asked about an eagle.  Because it can’t be true but what if it is.  If it is, we have to kill her. If it’s not we have to see who is really giving her all this information, then kill her.

I was once asked by one of the more lazy cops I’ve ever met, “So, is it like talking to God?” when I went to talk to him about Jermaine Charlo. His syrupy derision was no different than the “Why are my ancestors coming to you?”  Sadly, I’m not one skilled with witty repartee and it didn’t occur to me until much later to say, “No, conversations with God are much more direct.”  They are but for all the church-going, Bible shaking, and God-loving, to tell people there are active conversations with God is a nullifying as explaining those with Ancestors.

Whether those who would like to put an additional hole in my head (or anyone else) believe this or not, these are those who ‘tell Ingrid too much’

They are Coushatta, Cree, Muscogee, Maidu, Diné, Dene.

They are Lakota, Dakota, Comanche, Choctaw, and Apache.

They are Kickapoo, Meskwaki, Mi’maq, Tongva, and Gros Ventre.

They are Ojib, Ohkay Owingeh, Mewuk, Osage, Missouria, Potowatami, Quapaw, Quinault.

They are Rappahannock, Paiute, Pascato, Seminole, Shawnee and Chickahominey.

They are Sappony, Seneca, Waccamaw, Natchez, Niitsitapi, Cherokee, Mohawk, and Miccosuckee.

Onandagan, Cheyenne, Crow, Unitah, Calusa, Colusa, Appalachee.

Fox, Saux, Winnebago, Miami, Illini, Ioway and Omaha.

Arapaho, Otoe, Kiowa, Caddo, Coahuiltecan, Kutenai, and Pend d’Oreilles.

Nakoda, Yurok, Chumash, Yokuts and Yana.

Nahuatl, Mixtec, Mayo, Massai, and Huichol, O’odham and Tepehuan.

Guaraní, Cocopah, Dogon, Delaware, Sara, Salish, Tatar, Bua and Bantu.

Samí, Bedu, Yoruba, Ibibio, Damara, Pueblan. Altai, Mapuche and Quechua.

Abenaki, Mohigan, Wawenock, Acholi, Madu, Evenki.

Salish, Kumeyaay, Ohlone, Pomo, Skykomish, Yakama.

And more.

The sand speaks, clouds halt, rain and stag protect, horses signal, ground and eagles pull, bees direct, water leads, raven weaves with spider, snake and worm connect threads where others can’t go. Wings whisper, trunks kiss my face, Nagas sing, devas dance. Creation twins create anew.

They know. They see.

Hundreds more who trust me with their living kin whose prayers they have heard, whose cries for freedom they echo across the universe and pound through my dreams– insistent, repetitive beats of love. They give me medical advice, tell me when to run and when to be still, wait. They tell me to ‘stop with the questions’, ‘sit down and shut up’, ‘Speak, child. Speak.”

They ride the wind, thunder through clouds, beat my heart, sing my soul, cry my tears, soothe and sear my skin. They guide, they tattle on the twisted medicine men, they show the limbless torsos.

And we live and breathe and move as one.

My secret is safe with your secret….

I’ve shared before the confusion and despair felt when ignored by tribal leadership I’ve reached out to across the continent. Whether the attempted connection is with Osage, Crow, or Anishinaabe (or Blackfoot or Cree or Shoshone or Cheyenne or Pima or….), the silence I’ve been met with has been as deafening and deadening as the ‘keep your mouth shut’ repeatedly heard from the Cree contingent.

I’ve wondered out loud more than once if there is a M. Night Shyamalan-esque agreement within continental indigenous communities in which it’s been decided that a percentage of the population is expendable and sacrificed so that the larger community might be safe; where those sacrificed vanish into ether, with something resembling a tolerable amount of noise, and are never talked about again.

I’m keenly aware of the role that racism plays, the fear a white woman who works with Ancestors and Others inspires, and how spirit coming to life outside of select safe spaces threatens. However, there is something much more deep that I have tried to articulate but haven’t been adequately able to put words to.

This past weekend, though, I read an opinion piece by Garry Wills in the Washington Post about the Catholic Church. In it he expresses so well what I’ve been trying to wind words around:

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system.

His words, especially in the context of institutionalized sexual abuse and the attempts at covering it up, rang true to me.

The effects of colonizers ripping people from their land, the rape of women  also ‘theirs for the taking’, the forced ripping of children from their families into institutions made to ‘kill the Indian, save the man’, combined with the individual experiences of child rape within communities have created this weaving of secrets.

Layer interlaced with layer of secrets and fear; communal and individual, sexual and spiritual (they cannot be separated in the case of the Fuckery any more than they can any religious institution and its abusers), and threaded through entire lineages.

We cannot talk about the disappearances of indigenous children and women without honestly addressing these incredibly painful things. For those  unaware of the legacies wrought by the plundering of the continent’s first peoples, these things may seem like the distant past, far removed from any modern view or experience of the world. They are not. They are right here, right now and must be faced because the intentional disappearing of indigenous women and children are inextricably entwined within these layers.

Principles and Visitations from the Mother

I’m reading a book called Benediction by Kent Haruf. It’s one of those that I’m forcing myself to finish for reasons I can’t comprehend. It’s annoying. Damn-near all dialogue and not a single quotation mark.

There’s a scene in which a preacher pisses off his congregation by suggesting that loving thine enemy and turning the cheek might be literal expressions of Jesus’ teaching and not a mere metaphorical for living peaceably. He preaches, many congregants walk out, cursing him after he postulates that America, as a government and society, could do just that.

Not only does a large part of his congregation walk out on him, his wife later publicly announces she’s going to do the same to the remaining congregation. This is part of the ensuing conversation (I’m adding the quotation marks here because there’s no need for all of us to be annoyed):

“All right,” Lyles wife said. “I’ll admit he has his principles. I am aware of that. I used to admire him for his principles and his generous intentions. But what good are they, finally? You can’t eat them. You can’t depend on them. There’s no security in principles.”

Later, the preacher explains to his two remaining supporters:

“I think I’m done…People don’t want to be disturbed. They want reassurance. They don’t come to church on Sunday morning to think about new ideas or even about important old ones. They want to hear what they’ve been told before, with only some small variation on what they’ve been hearing all their lives, and then they want to go home, eat pot roast and say it was a good service and feel satisfied.”

I’m feeling that preacher in more ways than one. He’s right. The disruption isn’t wanted, but the lip service is. However, here we are. Disrupting right as we move along and no matter how many people turn away from us, in anger or fear.

I’ve been done a few times in the past eighteen months. Stick a fork in me, I cannot go on done. The first time I thought about walking away from all things Fuckery was on October 17, 2017, when Ariel Begay’s body was found. I packed up my things, drove the three hours to be with her mother, and decided half-way there that I wasn’t going back the desert. That fucking desert. Fucking hot, fucking dry, the devil incarnate hiding behind ‘medicine’, evil people doing evil things to children. What the fuck do They think one fucking person can do? I’m not that fucking person!  By the time I landed in her front yard, I realized I was lying to myself and that there was no way I was going to leave other victims behind. Who the fuck am I kidding? Don’t be fucking stupid.  I cried a lot. I bitched a lot. I found a place to rest and then put on my big girl drawers and went back.

The second time I thought about walking away was a little over a year ago. Profoundly depressed and ashamed and guilt-ridden and angry, I crawled into bed one night determined to pack up and leave the next day. Before my head hit the pillow, the room filled and there She was. In front of masses of other, Older female figures who I described as the Holiest of the Holies, Mother Mary showed herself again. This time there was no pleasant conversation in the kitchen. Without words she didn’t merely ask, she didn’t demand or argue; she beseeched and her plea was like no other I’ve felt except, perhaps, my own prayers as a child. The others stood behind her, saying nothing but Being with a strength and power that I’d not felt in a looooong time. The collective, halos aglow, prayed ‘don’t go’. What was I going to do with an ask like that? Say no? I stayed in the desert another two months until it was clear that I was under physical surveillance from 200 yards away and that not only was I in deep doo-doo but I might end up in deep sand pretty quick.

In the run-up to Christmas, I considered walking away again. With little support, multiple dangers, some masked as men in blue, a quick cost-benefit analysis seemed to make the decision an easy one. The impetus to carry on in December, though, didn’t come from another plea but in being spectacularly pissed off that another highly-regarded organization was identified as involved in the Fuckery. Simple rage and indignation fueled re-engagement. How dare those in the US Armed Forces be part of this?!!  Not that it was a real surprise. Soldiers around the world have been part of moving slaves as long as slavery has been around. The stories of rape as a weapon abound and the United Nations’ Blue Helmets involvement in trafficking is well documented. But, my country’s soldiers and seamen? And so we’ve carried on.
If I could argue with the preacher’s wife (which, admittedly, I sort of did by talking to the page like I do the GPS), I’d tell her that the only security may be in that principle of loving, of loving no matter what, no matter how much it scares other people, or confuses them. Or ourselves.
This is about the love for a little girl with a pink rose in her hair, for the Ariel’s of the world whose prayers have been heard, for the love of the Ancestors and Others for whom I work, for those whose own despair and desperation leads to the highest order of human cruelty.  It is with the deepest love as the guiding principle that we carry on.

Corruption on the Southern Border and Missing, Murdered Women and Children

Riding the tail of the El Chapo trial, the New York Times just published a story on the corruption of police along the US southern border linking the now well-known bribery schemes of the Sinaloa cartel leader in Mexico to similar machinations in the US. I was hoping to read more about the connection between bribery schemes and the political theater surrounding the ‘national emergency’ and The Wall. However, the article didn’t go there and I’m only going to touch on it in one sentence. Common sense, data, history and experts have made it clear that a wall isn’t going to stop the flow of migrants, drugs, weapons, cash or sex slaves. And while President Trump has mentioned sex trafficking as a way to engage his audience and paint a picture of horror, he’s missed the mark by a long shot and, beyond mischaracterization, is part of the problem

This movement, across the continent, of children and women who have been or will be sold for commercial sex, doesn’t just involve a few cops along the southern border. And, though it most definitely involves Customs and Border agents who prefer the bribe over the bullet, the wheels of the system are greased at the Northern and Southern borders, at airports, sea ports, and all of places in between the initial place of disappearance and the final resting place.

The mechanics of it all aren’t complex. Built on existing infrastructures of human behavior, trade routes, emerging technologies, and old-fashioned greed, the Fuckery is pretty darn simple.

Nearly every non-profit based in the United States that claims its focus is the direct interdiction of sex trafficking or rescuing of victims actually operates somewhere else on the globe in places like South Asia and Central America. Mission statements and explanations often state that the organization operates outside of the US because law enforcement agencies here have resources those in developing countries don’t, are not subject to the vagaries of despotic or poorly funded governments, including the standard operational normality of criminal collusion.

That is far from the reality. Our nearly nine thousand miles of perimeter and mental disconnect may lend to a false sense of moral superiority however it doesn’t isolate any citizen, officer of the peace or the court, from the human condition.

There is no corner of the globe that doesn’t influence or isn’t influenced by the collusion between law enforcement and sexual slavery of children and women. In the US, there isn’t an aspect of the disappearance of indigenous children and women that isn’t influenced by global economies. While a girl in the heart of Navajo country is being groomed on social media by a ‘friend’ or recruited directly by a boyfriend or teacher, the drugs used to subdue her originated in another part of the world, the broker may be an Apache who came into the business while flying Apaches in Afghanistan, and the ultimate buyer may be someone close to home-grown, but connected to global criminal networks.

The relationships between corrupted law enforcement, non-corrupted law enforcement and the organized crime that bridges the two are symbiotic, cross state and international boundaries. As are those relationships between this organized criminal network and tribal, local, and state politicians and jurists from thirteen Southern and Northern border states, eight border states for which there are no national boundaries, and eleven states in the interior; governors, mayors, chiefs, representatives in state houses, local judges and those on court of appeals benches, councilmen and women all working in partnership to perpetuate sexual slavery and murder of children, young men, and women. Sexual slavery doesn’t offer a way out. Very few get out of the system alive. There are mass graves sprinkled across the country filled with bodies of children and adults who could not be sold, who died of drug overdoses or reactions to drugs they were subdued with, suicide, some literally fucked to death over time, some killed during the act of fucking itself, and some, dumped and buried only after sellable organs have been removed.

There is no wall to stop it, no law to stop it, no border to stop it, no moral boundary that hasn’t been crossed to keep it going and help it prosper.

Think about that for a minute when you read stories about law enforcement and other officials who explain that more data, more awareness, and more timely reporting of disappearances will stop it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Law enforcement corruption and missing, murdered Indigenous women

This is the second in a multi-part series that will chronicle my journey into the world of sex-trafficking and murder in Indian Country and beyond. The first can be read here. If you’ve already read it, scroll until the font change. 

Headlines, hashtags, and public service announcements don’t provide a way to explore the nuances, relationships and historical responsibilities involved in the discussion and eradication of the trafficking of vulnerable Native American children and women for sexual exploitation. I hope this series does that and more. 

I became consciously involved with the subject in September 2017 when I was called by Ancestors to find a young Navajo woman who had been disappeared from the reservation and was believed by a Navajo cop to be in the Phoenix Metro area. I didn’t know it at the time but finding a body dump on the same reservation in 2014 and my presence at Standing Rock in 2016 laid the groundwork for me to walk into a multinational sex-trafficking operation with connections that span 45 countries. Telling how this story unfolds requires discussion of history and the repercussion arisen out of it, trauma experienced and held by peoples and the natural world, realities of misogyny, sexuality, institutionalized racism, the reemergence of what I call ‘the medicine way’ and where all those things converge in our current era. There will be no naming and shaming here but there will be solutions offered.

 

So, one cop said to another, “Someone is telling Ingrid too much.”

I was left alive last winter because folks were trying to figure out who was telling me what. How was it that I knew what I knew when I wasn’t supposed to know anything? Two sets of folks, law enforcement and not-law enforcement, who may or may not have known their watching was a mutual effort. The kicker of it all, is that for all the Facebook-cloning, electronic surveillance and geo-locating, physically threatening, and the flying-clone at the bedroom window, it appears that no one has considered that my information comes from exactly the place and in the manner I say it does.

Perhaps, though, two people do. I landed in Phoenix on September 14, 2017. By the morning of September 18, I was at the local FBI office with what I thought was actionable information (and I the time I knew nothing of what I do now). After being interviewed for nearly two hours, I went on my way. My way was south, following the pull of the eagle from two days prior.

On the sixteenth, I drove into a village that visions had been insisting I get to. It’s a relatively small place and I drove each street looking, listening, asking wide open for clarity. Birds had nothing to say. The few cottonwoods were quiet in the light desert breeze and the sand kept it’s secrets so I decided to leave.  Driving back, thinking of lunch, a set of eagle talons grabbed my left arm and pulled back hard. “Come back!!” Unmistakably asking for me to return.

For those few readers who do not understand my relationship with things of the invisible world, I feel the need to clarify that the eagle wasn’t visible. However, it’s identity, strength, power and plea were undeniably solid. If you ever have the opportunity to have a large raptor park itself on your arm, you’ll learn exactly how I knew. When I have confounding experiences with the spirit world in an indigenous context, particularly when specifically localized, it’s a proper and often necessary to elicit the help of a local expert. So I did.

I left the Phoenix-FBI office and went to find a local person of the medicine way. And, everyone I talked to sent me to one man; “he knows everybody”, “you’ll love him”, “he’s been around forever and works with everyone”, “he’s amazing”, “he’s so nice”, “you should hear him tell the Old stories”, “He’ll know exactly who to connect you with. Here’s his number”. So I called.

And with the help of two other Elders, including a lovely woman who said, “This is definitely beyond my level, he’s the one for you to talk to”, I was introduced to the man whose community loves and reveres him. And I told him the story. The whole story…why I was in the desert to begin with and my experience with his community’s Ancestors, their visions directing me to the same, and my experience with the eagle. As I sat across the table from he and his assistant, asking for help connecting me with an appropriate person and an education on local protocol for such things he looked me straight in the face and said, “I don’t know anyone like that.”  I didn’t need his assistant’s head whip to tell him me he lied. I also didn’t need anyone to tell me why he lied or that I’d walked into a perfectly laid set up just as I was supposed to and that what I thought I knew, what I’d reported to the FBI hours earlier, was merely the tip of a desert iceberg.

And I tried to report that. And before I gave up entirely on attempting to report anything, I had a conversation with another FBI agent, three weeks after I’d initiated contact via a non-profit and governmental consortium. After he said, “We won’t do anything without a victim” and I wondered if I might well become one soon just to help the agency out, I sent the obligatory email and forgot about another fucking FBI agent.

I forgot about that FBI agent until I learned I was under electronic surveillance by the FBI and those definitely not the FBI.  It’s an odd experience to be confronted with a) your own ignorance of things that might get you killed, and b) a solid thing, a stalwart symbol of safety and justice in your mind that suddenly isn’t safe or a representative of equitableness at all. It’s even more odd to understand prior neat dividing lines of good guys and bad guys are no longer useful tools.

I’d had hints of things sort of odd with my computer but I chalked it up to it’s age and an unfortunate incident with a car tire a year prior at Standing Rock. I didn’t understand that my computer and phone had been hacked until I was met in the dark by someone making a point that I had been seen and that I ought to be scared, ought to be scared off. The message was hard to miss when an SUV driver turned off his headlights as he approached slowly, then stopped to take flash photographs of me at 11:00 at night. A few minutes before that sphincter-tightening experience, while trying to find my car in a very, very large parking lot, I noticed that my Google maps was showing me forty-five miles away in a place I wasn’t and had not been.  That GPS had either imbibed the drink I was craving or my phone was trying to tell me something. The fat photographer in the Suburban? He told me very clearly what the GPS message was. We’re following you. We’ve been following you. We know exactly where you’ve been, where you are down to the very path you’re walking in the dark. Alone.

I tried to review everywhere I’d stayed, where I’d moved, with whom I spoken, and always came back to September 18, 2017, and the two separate conversations I had–one with the presumed good guys and one with an otherwise-revered not-so-good guy.

Nearly one year later, I was again reminded those who I’d spent years working with, trusting, and loving as brothers and lovers and partners, toe that blue line of ‘protect and serve’ while serving those who commit the most heinous acts upon children and women, all while in uniform. Someone who was responsible for my safety and that of victims chose to make traffickers safe instead.

State troopers, county deputies, tribal police; blue, brown and green uniforms and those with a pantyhose or tie. Safety, security, justice, trust us, my ass.

I’ve watched cops chat it up with pimps, I’ve cut contact with someone I love and respect because I was afraid his tribal colleagues would create a convenient line of duty death, I know an entire department that will need to be taken over by the federal government when it comes out how many officers and command are involved in harboring of hostages, as well as producing and selling child pornography. I’ve been ignored except when I was being surveilled (odd, no?), and the one who facilitated the price on my head? None other than the federal agent to whom I considered sarcastically offering myself as a victim to get someone to listen to me. My thought at the time was maybe the death or disappearance of a middle-aged white woman will inspire someone to care about the death and disappearance of some brown skin girls. Little did I know. 

This winter, I’m alive despite the fact the good guys and not-so-good guys have decided it doesn’t matter how I’m getting my information and someone within one of those blurry-lined camps thinks the reward for my head would make a nice chunk of change. Someone is telling Ingrid too much.

Even now, nearly a year and a half since this unfolding began, it’s not clear who is who, who fits into what camp, and how often they hurriedly blur across the lines. What is clear is that there is enough money moving into the hands of law enforcement officials and respected elders across the country that the trafficking of children and adults will not be enforced away.