Shiprock Monument

Navajo Nation member returns home to teach her tribe at child sex trafficking symposium

The Navajo Nation held a two-day symposium to address child sex trafficking in tribal communities. The training, entitled “Responding to Child Sex Trafficking & Exploitation in Tribal Communities,” was held May 30-31 in Shiprock, New Mexico.

Provided by the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program (AATTAP), the training emphasized group collaboration, planning and implementation of awareness projects to keep tribal communities and children safe. Participants discussed specific threats and warning signs of sex trafficking involving indigenous children.

The symposium was a homecoming for Tyesha Bahe-Wood, a presenter and then- associate with the AMBER Alert in Indian Country initiative. She’s a Navajo member from Window Rock, Arizona, and attended Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, New Mexico, 30 minutes east of Shiprock.

“It is uplifting to know that tribal communities, and my community in particular, are taking initiative to become more aware of the threats of sex trafficking,” said Bahe-Wood. “We work together as a group because we are all part of a family protecting our children.”

Bahe-Wood and AATTAP Program Manager Byron Fassett were given protection beads made by an eight-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. The beads are made from dried juniper and are also called “ghost beads.”

“As a non-tribal person, this not only allowed myself and Tyesha to provide our knowledge on the crime of sex trafficking, but also provided me with the opportunity to learn more about its impact on tribal communities,” said Fassett.

The class also presented Bahe-Wood with a three-pound bag of Cortez Bluebird flour, something she said is an “essential item in a Navajo household.” Bahe-Wood was recently promoted to a project coordinator with AATTAP.

Montana Governor Signs Legislation to Create Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force

Montana Governor Steve Bullock has signed legislation to create a Missing And Murdered Indigenous Person’s Task Force in that state. Under Senate Bill 312, the Looping in Native Communities (LINC) Act creates the task force which includes a representative from each tribal government on Montana’s seven reservations; other members represent the state’s AG’s Office, the DOJ and the Highway Patrol.

The task force’s primary duties include identifying jurisdictional barriers between federal, state, local and tribal Law enforcement and community agencies; and work on interagency collaboration, communication and cooperation to remove jurisdictional barriers and increase reporting and investigation of missing indigenous persons.

Eleven members of the task force have been appointed by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. “I’m confident the members of the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force will make positive strides in determining the scope of this issue as well as bring forward good recommendations to increase cooperation among public safety agencies and tribal governments,” Fox said of the task force.

Training on missing indigenous persons and the crime of sex trafficking, such as one held in June in Helena, are aligned with the task force’s work, a joint effort of the Montana AG’s Office and DOJ, and include presenters from state and federal agencies.

Mark Pollock, a member of the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force and the Blackfeet Tribal Council, spoke with a reporter about the June training event in Helena. “To hear their stories, you can’t help but be affected by it,” he said. “My hope is that we don’t have to have those stories like that out there anymore.”

Tribes from across U.S. gather for Indian Country AMBER Alert Symposium

Pamela Foster, the mother of Ashlynne Mike, an 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in the Navajo Nation, challenged tribal, federal, state and local officials to do more to protect and find missing and abducted Native American Children. Foster was one of the featured speakers at the National AMBER Alert in Indian Country Symposium, held July 30-August 1 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The symposium brought together more than 200 tribal leaders, public safety, and emergency management officers to focus on implementing the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act of 2018, a law providing funding and resources to integrate state and regional AMBER Alert Plans with federally recognized tribes. A complete report on the Indian Country Symposium will be included in the next issue of The AMBER Advocate.