Human Trafficking Is Not Traditional, Except When It Is

One of the myths about human trafficking is that it’s not traditional. However, the phenomenon of human trafficking, particularly that of children and women from Indian Country, is entwined in the histories of indigenous peoples all over, including those in North America. That we’ve put them ‘out of sight, out of mind’ physically, educationally, and historically does not help modern victims, perpetuates the roles of traffickers and law enforcement, and negatively impacts those rescued who are not believed or cannot find resources for healing and recovery in their communities.

Long before the Spanish flooded Mexico and other Europeans made it to the mainland of what is now the United States and Canada, indigenous peoples stole women and children for labor, for sex, and for trade for goods–to other tribes and then to the Spanish, French and English. We can’t approach the healing of communities or eradication of the modern practice without understanding the larger and historical context.  The methods of abduction and modes of travel may have changed but the basics remain the same; exploitation of vulnerable communities and individuals, the routes used to transport, and sale to the highest bidder for the maximum profit.

Andrés Reséndez’s work called The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, from which I’ll be quoting heavily, traces the historical movement of Indian slavery across the Caribbean and North America. It’s a fascinating, mind-numbing (not the prose but the scope) and heart-breaking accounting of how so many communities were decimated, not just by the diseases that we are told about in history lessons but by the theft and sale, particularly of women and children.

He begins with this:

The beginnings of this other slavery are lost in the mists of time. Native peoples such as the Zaptocs, Mayas, and Aztecs took captive to use a sacrificial victims; the Iroquois waged campaigns called “mourning wars” on neighboring groups to avenge and replace their dead; and Indians in the Pacific Northwest included male and female slaves as part of the goods sent by the groom to his bride’s family to finalize marriages among the elite. Native Americans had enslaved each other for millennia, but with the arrival of Europeans, practices of captivity embedded in specific cultural contexts became commodified, expanded in unexpected ways, and came to resemble the kinds of human trafficking that are recognizable to us today.

By historians estimation, based on a variety of documents available to them, in the America’s alone, between 1492 and 1900, there were between 2.5 and five million Indian slaves.  These numbers do not include those shipped from the east coast of what’s now the United States to Europe; the numbers of which are not known beyond estimates. What is known is that this particular phenomena began by Indians offering their own slaves to Europeans in exchange for goods like food, weapons, metalwork and more. Reséndez shares this:  “What started as a European controlled enterprise, however, gradually passed into the hands of the Native Americans. As Indians acquired horses and weapons of their won, they became independent providers….In the Southwest, the Comanches and Utes became regional suppliers of slaves to other Indians as well as to the Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans.  The Apaches, who had early on been among the greatest victims of enslavement, transformed themselves into successful slavers.”

Things were only slightly different in the Eastern part of the new country. “Between the period between 1670 and 1720, Carolinians exported more Indians out of Charleston, South Carolina, that they imported Africans into it. As the traffic developed, the colonists increasingly procured their indigenous captives from the Westo Indians, an extraordinarily expansive…militaristic slaving societ[y]….”   The Westos and others roamed from Virginia to Florida taking captives to sell to other Indians and to Carolinians.

I knew when I was in the desert two years ago some of the historical context but sometimes when Ancestors attempt to explain things in a manner for which I have no context, I can’t grasp the Bigness or Oldness of a thing. Then, I was thinking 40 years ago, going back maybe a half a century, not four or five centuries. I remember driving south on Arizona Highway 85 into Ajo, feeling similar to how I’ve felt at other places; the slow-slog travels of long ago, the feeling of lostness and displacement from the places and people that mattered most, much newer fear layered on top of that, and only then began to recognize the length of time they were trying to express. It didn’t begin to become clear until I began researching.

It was not lost on me that the center of this network, though it may stretch to Australia and South Korea, is in the Phoenix metro area. Phoenix has only been a city since 1868 but the history of those who lived and moved through there predates our written recordings. Maps before modern borders came into being show trade and seasonal migration routes from what is now Central Mexico and into Colorado, Idaho, California, Illinois, and more. Linguists trace the same from Western Mexico along the Gulf Coast as far east as Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Before we carved up the land with imaginary lines and paved highways, people moved much farther that we’ve been taught in school and, in doing so, stole, traded and sold much than we’ve been taught as well.

The beginnings of Indian enslavement in the Southwest have direct ties to sex trafficking today and The Fuckery’s hub in Phoenix. The relationships built over time by families, lawful businesses, criminal organizations, militaries, traders and travelers, particularly along the country’s borders, have been evolving since long before white faces showed up on the continent. However, the Spaniards discovery of silver and the labor necessary to mine it and refine it, created a mass-commercialization of trafficking that survived it’s illegality and royal antislavery activism and has morphed into it’s current state. The illegality that made it difficult for Spanish slavers to work created an avenue for Indian traffickers to fill the void. “Thus new traffickers, new victims, and new slaving routes emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”

One incident cited by several historians seems to exemplify in rather gross way how these factors came together. “In 1694, barely two years after the Spaniards had retaken control of the province, a group of Navajos arrived [in a market in New Mexico] with the intention of selling Pawnee children. The Spanish authorities initially refused to acquire the young captives [because Indian slavery was illegal by royal decree]…The traffickers proceeded to behead the captive children within the Spanish colonist’s sight. In the short term, the Utes lost their “merchandise”. But in the longer term, the stratagem prompted New Mexican officials to reconsider the ban against “ransoming” Indian captives…In effect, the Navajos, Utes, Comanches, and the Apaches forced New Mexican authorities to break the law and accept their captives.”  Reséndez adds, “By the middle of the eighteenth century, these commercial and diplomatic relations had become normalized.”

Archives like government treaties and mission and military communications related how the expansion for more human ‘goods’, particularly by the Comanche, refashioned the livelihoods and ‘neighborhoods’ of desert, Plains and Plateau tribes. As horse-heavy Comanches and Utes repeatedly raided, people moved to escape and, when family was captured, often moved to join other bands. And those that were captured, if not sold, were married into or enslaved for life in other communities. “The Comanches took many of their captives to New Mexico, where…in the absence of money or silver, women and children constituted a versatile medium of exchange accepted by Spaniards, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Pueblos and many other Indian groups in the region.” The flow of the Indian slave trade then saw Apaches sold by Comanches to French colonists in Quebec to the extent that the Apaches came to comprise as many as one quarter of all Indians slaves of known origin in New France.” The opening up of California and the expansion of Europeans across the West only expanded the practice again with new traffickers, new routes and new victims. Navajo, Utes and others sold captives to those moving westward and resupplied traffickers when they made their way back to the east.

Now as then, multigenerational rivalries, intertribal animosities, military history, other ties to ancients and lost ties to lands and resources still fuel the trade.

Stolen and sold for labor and to increase tribal populations, Indian women and children were the most often taken. Their value was nearly double that of adult males. I don’t know how much a young woman’s ‘value’ is determined by traffickers these days. I’m going to assume it’s a lot more than the $150-200 from the 1850s.  I do know that the ‘return on investment’ now exceeds what anyone imagined then. With the advent of modern technologies, the ease of intercontinental travel, and the myriad of ways and number of times a young person’s sexuality can be exploited, the amount of money brought in by thousands of disappeared young people is staggering.

And, in my opinion, the trafficking of women and children for the labor of sexual exploitation, is indeed, normalized. It’s so ‘normal’ that when someone sees something, they don’t say something.  It’s so ‘normal’, that the political infrastructure of bringing new Indian casinos into being, long before construction has begun, includes plans for how to incorporate the sale of sex by slaves in new communities, with new victims, new routes and notso new traffickers.

Human trafficking in Indian Country is, in many parts of the continent, traditional. Now though, maybe, people will stop long enough to say something; say something to their tribal council and white legislators, say something to victims, those who pimp and pander, ask questions, demand accountability, and openly challenge the practices and people that allow it to flourish and rip communities apart. This is one tradition that needs to be eradicated.










Indian Gaming and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women


The Fuckery, the name I’ve given this sex trafficking network, would not exist without the active participation of Native American-owned casinos. According to the National Indian Gaming Association’s Fact Sheet from 2015, in 28 states there were 317 Indian casinos with Class II and Class III machines and they reported revenues of $29.9 Billion dollars. The Fuckery operates in 174 of them.

They are:

  • Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale AZ (Salt River Pima Maricopa)
  • Wild Horse Pass, Chandler AZ
  • Desert Diamond-3 locations
  • Chumash Casino Resort
  • River Rock Casino, Geyserville CA
  • Graton, Rohnert Park CA
  • Table Mountain, Friant CA
  • Cliff Castle, Camp Verde AZ
  • Dakota Magic, Hankinson ND
  • Dakota Sioux, Watertown SD
  • Northern Lights, Walker MN
  • Prairie’s Edge, Granite Falls MN
  • Shooting Star, Mahnomen, MN
  • Sky Dancer, Belcourt ND
  • Prairie Knights, Ft Yates SD
  • Warroad, Warroad, MN (+2)
  • Spirit Lake, St Michael ND
  • Four Bears, New Town, ND
  • Mystic Lake, Prior Lake, MN
  • Fort Randall, SD
  • Downstream, Quapaw, OK
  • Apache Nugget, Dulce and Cuba, NM
  • Red River, Devol OK
  • Kiowa, Devol OK
  • Cherokee, Ramona OK
  • Black Hawk, Shawnee OK
  • Seven Feathers, Umpqua, OR
  • River Bend, Wyandotte OK
  • Wind River, Wind River WY
  • Ilani, Ridgefield WA
  • Red Wind Casino, Olympia WA
  • Chinook Winds, Lincoln City OR
  • Win-River, Redding CA
  • Angel of the WInds, Arlington WA
  • First Council, Newkirk OK (+2)
  • Indigo Sky, Wyandotte, OK
  • Spokane Tribe, Airway Heights WA
  • Goldsby Gaming, Norman OK
  • Riverstar, Terrell OK
  • Riverwind, Norman OK
  • Lucky Eagle, Rochester WA
  • Red Hawk, Placerville CA
  • Isleta Resort, Albuquerque NM
  • Wild Horse, Pendleton OR
  • Colville 12 Nations, Omak WA
  • Eagle Mountain, Porterville CA
  • Colusa, Colusa CA
  • Bucky’s, Prescott AZ
  • Flowing Water, Fire Rock and Twin Arrows
  • San Manuel, Highland CA
  • Choctaw, Durant OK
  • Blue Lake, BLue Lake CA
  • Viejas, Alpine CA
  • Cache Creek, Brooks CA
  • Three Rivers, Coos Bay OR
  • Quil Creek, Tulalip
  • Casino Pauma, Pauma Valley CA
  • Muckleshoot, Auburn WA
  • Pala, San Diego CA
  • Thunder Valley, Lincoln CA
  • Sycuan, El Cajon CA
  • Jamul, Jamul CA
  • Morongo, Cabazon CA
  • Agua Caliente, Rancho Mirage CA
  • Chicken Ranch, Jamestown CA
  • Spirit Mountain, Grand Ronde OR
  • Cities of Gold, Santa Fe
  • Buffalo Thunder, Santa Fe
  • Silver Reef, Ferndale WA
  • The Point, Kingston WA
  • Clearwater, Suquamish WA
  • Blue Water, Parker AZ
  • Seven Cedars, Sequim WA
  • Hon-Dah, Pinetop AZ
  • Tachi Palace, Lemoore CA
  • Little Creek, Shelton WA
  • Chukchansi Gold, Coarsegold CA
  • Cherokee, Ramona OK
  • Northstar, Bowler WI
  • Two Rivers, Davenport WA
  • The Stables, Miami OK
  • Quinault Beach, Ocean Shores WA
  • Legends, Toppenish WA
  • Shoshone Rose, Lander WY
  • Ohiya, Niobara NE
  • Choctaw, Durant OK
  • Skagit, Bow WA
  • Hard Rock, Tulsa OK
  • Tonkawa Hotel/Casino, Tonkawa OK
  • Seneca, Niagara Falls NY
  • Saganing Eagles Landing, Standish MI
  • Soaring Eagle, Mount Pleasant MI
  • Swinomish, Anacortes WA
  • Santa Ana Star, Bernalillo NM
  • Emerald Queen (Fife and Tacoma, WA)
  • Barona, San Diego
  • Mazatzal, Payson AZ
  • Apache Gold, San Carlos AZ
  • Apache Sky, Dudleyville AZ
  • Mountain Gods, Mescalero NM
  • Winnevegas, Sloan IA
  • Kwataqnuk, Flathead Lake MT
  • Sands, Bethlehem PA
  • Akwesasne Mohawk, Hogansburg NY
  • Del Lago Resort, Waterloo NY
  • Kewadin Casinos, Sault Ste. Marie
  • Firekeepers, Battle Creek MI
  • Odawa, Petosky MI
  • Four Winds, New Buffalo MI
  • Northern Waters, Watersmeet MI
  • Paiute Palace, Bishop CA
  • Diamond Mountain, Susanville CA
  • The Mill, North Bend OR
  • Kla-Mo-Ya, Chiloquim OR
  • Indian Head, Warm Springs OR
  • Cache Creek, Brooks CA
  • Mole Lake, Crandon WI
  • Gray Wolf Peak, Missoula MT
  • Stonewolf, Pawnee OK
  • Twin Pine, Middletown CA
  • River Spirit, Tulsa OK
  • Osage Casino and Hotel (3)
  • Treasure Island, Welch MN
  • 7th Street, Kansas City
  • Avi Casino Resort, Ft Mohave AZ
  • Coushatta Casino Resort, Kinder, LA
  • Gun Lake, Wayland MI
  • Coeur d’Alene Casino, Worley ID
  • Sandia, Albuquerque NM
  • Dancing Eagle, Cibola NM
  • Santa Claran, Espanola NM
  • Sky City, Acoma NM
  • Casino San Pablo, San Pablo, CA
  • Cypress Bayou, Charenton LA
  • Choctaw Pines, Dry Prong LA
  • Paragon, Marksville LA
  • Winstar, Thackerville OK
  • Wind Creek Casinos, Alabama (3)
  • Fort Hall, Pocatello ID
  • Mohegan Sun, Uncasville CT; Pocono,NY
  • Meswaki, IA
  • St. Croix, Turtle Lake WI
  • Grand Casino, Hinckley MN
  • Lucky Star, various locations OK
  • Grand Casino, Shawnee OK
  • Thunderbird, Norman OK
  • Menominee Casino, Keshena WI
  • Seminole Hard Rocks, Florida (2)
  • Seminole Immokale and Coconut Creek
  • Sky Ute, Ignacio CO
  • Ute Moutain, Towaoc CO
  • The Artesian, Sulphur OK
  • the to-be built Pamunkey casino, Norfolk VA*
  • the to-be built Legends Casino and Resort, Russelville AR*

These casinos and resorts in the United States are not the only ones involved with this network.  There are others in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Prince Albert, Winnipeg, Montreal and the Toronto areas that are active participants.  This list does not include over 60 casinos and resorts that are owned and operated by private corporations and public interests in other parts of the continent.  In addition, this list does not include those corporate participants across Europe, Russia, Asia, and Africa.


**These casinos have not been built yet. However, the parallel political maneuvering, consulting and lobbying processes outside the legitimate legislative negotiations, have included discussions between partners and participants of The Fuckery to expand the movement of current trafficking flow to be incorporated as new revenue streams.  Let that sink in for a minute. That is how institutionalized and ‘normalized’ the gaming industry’s involvement in sexual trafficking is.





We’re the Dark Force

There is no secret occult, invisible evil, or supernatural Dark Force spinning a web of entrapment and sexual slavery.

It’s us. Solid human beings that actively choose to create harm; some in what they weigh as ‘small’ ways, like creating a ‘friendship’ online that leads to a meeting in person and drinks with a drug in it.

It’s the mother whose son hears, “That girl! Look, she’s nothing but a tramp, she’s worthless!” It’s the girl who hears that–maybe from her own mother, who may or may not know that her father has been raping her since she began to toddle.

It’s the human need for connection and the capacity of other’s to exploit that, as well as economic poverty and other forms of lack.

It’s the collective agreement that the election of a mayor, tribal council person, school board, preacher or President who ‘grabs ’em by the pussy’ or ‘just takes what he/I wants’ is okay.

It’s the sexualization of children without teaching them about sex and all that it really is; it’s about hiding our own sexuality and need for intimacy behind porn and paywalls to substitute for connection. It’s about turning a blind eye to those who look, speak or behave differently than us because they are ‘other’.

For many of us, it’s the unwillingness to acknowledge our own privilege, the damage our forefathers wrought and our shared responsibility in fixing their fuck-ups. And, boy howdy, did they ever fuck some things up.

It’s the persistence of cynicism and sarcasm, taking the easy way out. It’s the unwillingness to challenge ourselves to do things differently–to see *others* differently, to move into active loving.

Love isn’t everything. It’s a magnificent foundation but requires effort.

Love also requires the effort (and it does take work) to understand that the phenomena of sexual slavery and that of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is not easily divided into black and white, good and bad, righteous and evil. It requires understanding that even those who cause great harm mow the neighbors yard without asking, feed strangers, love their children, do good works for their communities.  They exist together in the same way we each do; masked and visible selves that need to be heard, seen and healed.


The Real Conspiracy Here

The greatest conspiracy here is complacency.

If the amount of energy being used (and consumed) by folks perpetuating the “obviousness” of Epstein’s “suicide” were actually being put into talking about the tens of thousands of young people who are impacted by sexual slavery, or engaging with organizations that work for and with them, we’d have less of a problem.

If the energies put toward the ‘conspiracy’ of your neighbors, preachers, parents, teachers, mayors, medicine men, dentists, doctors, plumbers, cashiers, bartenders, board members, casinos, hotels were to match the current ‘trend’, we’d have less of a problem.

If folks would stop trying to ‘raise other people’s vibration’ and actually engage in the work of active loving, we’d begin solving the problem.

If we’d stop bitching about those in power and call them on their shit productively (and vote, there’s that), we’d begin solving the problem.

If we’d stop isolating and hiding real sex and celebrating the not-so-real, we’d start solving the problem

If we’d include other human beings in our ‘defense of the sacred’, we’d start solving the problem.

If we’d stop saying things like “just a whore” or “someone should beat some sense into her” or “she’s going to be just like whateverthederogatorytrend of the day is”, if we’d stop making fun of people who think and dress differently, we’d begin changing the problem.

If we would start losing our own language of violence, we’d begin to solve the problem. If we’d begin to value brown skinned people as if they, too, walked with the holiest of the holies, we’d begin to solve the problem If women would begin accepting responsibility about how we’ve taught me that this is okay—especially by our silence–then we’d begin to solve the problem

And, to state the obvious, If we’d stop fucking children–in every way, there would be no problem.

I’m using WE here purposefully. There is a collective responsibility shared here. Jeffery Epstein? His pocket of the slave trade is a mere drop in the bucket.

The same way it’s ‘trending’ to talk about those in power subverting justice in his case, it should be trending to talk about how we each do the same thing in our day to day life, whether it’s our language, who we vote or give money to, who and what we ignore because it’s someone else’s business, how we choose to find sexual release, empower our children–including their sexuality, or disempower our other women-because of their sexuality, look out for our neighbor, or say nothing rather than something.

More than Epstein

Forty-eight weeks ago, after I’d received no help from the FBI, the US Attorney’s office, tribal legislators, or multiple local law enforcement jurisdictions, I faxed letters to a select group of Senators who’d publicly expressed interest in addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Then-Senators Flake and Heitkamp, Murkowski, and Tester each received a two page letter outlining information I had and requesting a conversation or intervention with federal law enforcement.
Although none of the Senators engaged, that one communication began a cavalcade of connections across the globe. What I imagine was quite the panicked phone call from a Washington DC office, has led to a year’s worth of “who the hell is this woman and what does she really know”. There may be those who doubt but they aren’t the ones trying to defame me across Indian Country. They know that their Ancestors know, that I know, and that their gig is nearly up.
I’ve watched how the Epstein case has unfolded and, now that he’s killed himself, watched the requisite conspiracy theories pop up like mushrooms after a summer rain. How I wish that same energy would be funneled into bringing to light the real conspiracy of The Fuckery that does, no surprise, intersect with the Epstein case.

Arresting Immigrants but not Sex Traffickers?

I wonder what impact there would be if 600 people connected to the sexual trafficking of Native Americans were arrested in one day? If federal law enforcement waltzed into where they work (some wouldn’t have to walk all that far) and arrested them just like ICE did the immigrants yesterday?

Think about it for a hot second. Parade them out of their courtrooms, casinos, boardrooms, the bedrooms, schools, plumbing vans, tribal offices,

We have the capacity to do so. Why haven’t we?

There’s no mystery in the answer.

While You Were Paddling

Say Something

While you were paddling, making your way to the Lummi Nation, what was going through your mind?  What were your prayers?  To whom did you sing? What did you hear beyond the sound of your own heart beating?

How much of your thoughts were centered on”ohshitohshitohshit. Oh. Shit! Now what do I do?” When your conscience has been calling?  When you’ve watched those you call relatives enslaved in the place you work? When you’ve judged them for being ‘just whores’ or thought something more like ‘well, everybody’s got to work’ and not thought more about it? How often have you covered up the signs when you’ve cleaned the room or served the drinks? How often have you seen the makeup run and know she’s not 18 or 21, but maybe 16? How often have you seen a madam talking up security, laughing as if it’s business as usual and business is good?

When you first read what I wrote about this, did you think “that’s not happening where I work” or did you already know and just keep you mouth shut? How often has ‘see something, say something’ slipped through your mind without a thought getting attached? How often have you actually detached because ‘it’s not of my business’?

What happened when you showed others the post?  When you thought someone else would say something? Were you surprised at the shrugged shoulders? Did the one who gave the vibe that he was part of it frighten you?

When will you say something? When will you do something?

It’s not enough to put on a red dress or paint across your face and say you’re an advocate.

Say something.

Reach out.