National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault


Human Trafficking in Indian Country.


Through the legacy of European colonization, Native women have been subjected to sex slavery and other demeaning commercialized sexual treatment.


Although many people may believe that this maltreatment ended a hundred years ago, it persists today in the form of human trafficking.


Human trafficking is commonly understood to require movement of the victim—that is, knowingly transporting the victim through coercion, often threatening or using violence.  However, most contemporary legal definitions do not require physical movement of the victim, but instead there must only be force, fraud, enticement, or abuse of power.


Native women, especially urban Indian populations, have fallen prey to sex trafficking at disproportionately high rates.  One reason for this over representation is that Native women and girls often suffer from risk factors which social scientists have identified as potential identifying links to future prostitution.  Alcohol abuse, substance abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and poverty are all factors which potentially lead to prostitution.  According to statistics, Native women experience these risk factors at a higher rate than the general population.


There are also community-based factors which lead to the heightened victimization of Native women.  Because many perpetrators perceive that laws on reservations are not enforced, many reservations have become hunting grounds for pimps and gangs.  The pimps and gangs are able to remove the victim from the reservation and force the victim into prostitution, frequently without any criminal or civil consequences.


At this time, most of the evidence of Native women's involvement in human trafficking is anecdotal.  For example, a study in Minneapolis suggests that 24% of women on probation for prostitution in North Minneapolis are Native women.  Native women only comprise 2.2% of the general population of Minneapolis.  Further, a study in Alaska showed that 33% of the trafficked and sexually exploited women in Anchorage were Native; however, Native women only compose 8% of Anchorage's general population.  These studies are alarming and suggest that Native women are being trafficked at a much higher rate than the general population. 


If a victim advocate or service provider comes into contact with a trafficking a victim, it is of the utmost importance that the advocate does not blame the victim for her situation.  Sensitivity and understanding are the charge of the day. Responses such as "this is a decision you made", will be devastating to a trafficking victim and will discourage her from seeking further help.  Regardless of the advocate's personal views on prostitution or what types of behavior leads to one becoming a prostitute, the advocate must treat the trafficking victim as a victim of a sex crime.




The Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) Announces

 "Sex Trafficking Resources" Website!



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Additional Resources - (21)


Full Publication List



Featured Publications


Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota


Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota


This report, compiled by the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education and written by Melissa Farley, Nicole Matthews, Sarah Deer, Guadalupe Lopez, Christine Stark, and Eileen Hudon, explores the results of interviews with 105 Native women, around half of which were victims of human trafficking. This report explores the prevalence of human trafficking amongst Native women and describes some of the long-term, adverse consequences of trafficking on Native women.



Relocation Revisited: Sex Trafficking of Native Women in the United States


Relocation Revisited: Sex Trafficking of Native Women in the United States


This law review article, written by Sarah Deer, links colonization to the current human trafficking problem in Indian Country.



National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault, a project by the Southwest Center for Law and Policy © 2019

This project was supported by  Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessary represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. All rights reserved. | Privacy policy   Login