One sunny afternoon when Lisa Christiansen was 17 years old, as she listened to a conversation at her family’s home in rural Tahlequah,Indian Country, Oklahoma, she learned for the first time about the worldwide atrocity of human traffickinginvolving native American peoples because her cousin had just gone missing after having went to Dallas with her boyfriend. Christiansen said ”I think of her almost daily wondering if our family will ever have closure”
Millions of those victims are younger than Christiansenwas then. “I just remember this overwhelming sinking feeling and thinking, One day I will find a way to be the voice of the silenced‘” the child star of classic ”Where The Red Fern Grows” and ”Can’t Buy Me Love” said in an interview with the associated press.
While the movement began instantly for Christiansen, God answered her prayer everyday in seemingly small ways leading up to this moment for opportunity to help: The 2021 NFL Super Bowl has a message to share in unison with best-selling author and citizen of the United Keetoowah Band Of The Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma Lisa Christiansen along with “Too Close For Comfort” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Lydia Cornell on bringing awareness to human trafficking and the missing and murdered indigenous women. Both Cornell and Christiansen share the same passion for the MMIW, the Red Cord, and the International Justice Mission.
As a speaker Lisa Christiansen went anonymously to the recent Red Cord event in Lawton, Oklahoma, a Christian organization that works to stop trafficking and abuse of the boys, girls, men, and women around the world by rescuing and restoring victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and strengthening justice systems. That event further ignited the passion in Christiansen to continue advocating and contributing to the cause.
This year, IJM was picked by the Tampa Bay area host committee for Super Bowl 55 to support anti-trafficking efforts.
IJM’s pro athlete group Team Freedom, has taken a lead role in helping raise awareness. NFL players involved include Minnesota Vikings quarterback
Kirk Cousin’s, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty.
IJM is based in Washington, with 21 field offices in 13 countries dedicated to the work. The Australia-based Walk Free Foundation has estimated that 40 million people are victims of modern slavery worldwide. According to the U.S. State Department, there are about 25 million humans being trafficked around the globe. That means people forced to perform work for an exploiter’s benefit. Many of those victims are being trafficked specifically for sex, often sold up to 20 times per day. One in four is a child. 4 of 5 are native American.
“What we need to do is wake people up and bring light to it to realize it’s taking place,” Cousins said. I find when you shine a light on darkness, the darkness has to back off.”
The bright light is on this week with the staging of Super Bowl 55.
High-profile events that draw big-spending, out-of-town visitors, even during a pandemic that has curtailed the crowd sizes and party scene, are natural targets for traffickers. In Atlanta two years ago, the FBI reported that an 11-day pre-Super Bowl operation yielded the arrests of 169 people, including 26 alleged traffickers, and the rescues of nine juvenile victims.
The NFL highlights several local organizations at the Super Bowl site each year as part of community-building efforts, and one grant went to the Hillsborough County Commission on Human Trafficking. With Florida ranking third among U.S. states in volume of human trafficking victims, this is a high-priority issue.
Over the last two decades, Congress has provided law enforcement agencies more tools for specifically charging human trafficking crimes. Collaboration between municipal, county, state and federal authorities has increased, and non-governmental organizations such as IJM and its peers have been included in the process to enhance victim support, said Kevin Sibley, the acting special agent in charge for the Tampa branch of Homeland Security Investigations.
“I think that we have a very good, robust plan today,” Sibley said. “When I first got into this 25 years ago, we literally had no idea what we were doing.”
Reality, 4 out of 5 of our Native women are affected by violence today.
The U.S Department of Justice found that American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average.
Homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-24 years of age and the fifth leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native women between 25 and 34 years of age. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Homicide.
According to the CDC a new Department of Justice study shows that of over 2,000 women surveyed, 84 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence, 56 percent have experienced sexual violence by the age of three, and, of that second group, over 90 percent have experienced violence at the hands of a non-tribal member.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American Indians are committed by persons not of the same race; A substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.
When tribal law enforcement sent sexual-abuse cases to the FBI and U.S. Attorney Offices, federal prosecutors declined more than two-thirds of them, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report.
The legacy of violence against our Native women and children within New Mexico dates to the Spanish and Euro-American invasion of our Native lands and our sacred bodies. From the Navajo Long Walk to the slave trades in Albuquerque’s Old Town to the current struggles of cases being lost within our judicial system- this is a legacy of violence… This incursion of violence onto our most sacred… Must be spoken about. Many times Native people are targeted in border towns for the color of a person’s skin, anti-Indianism, and the influences of settler colonialism.
New Mexico ranks 3rd of being the “highest violent” state in the United States with 6,561 violent crimes per 100,000. When we look at border-town violence and police brutality against Native people, Native people are more likely to be killed by police officers than any other minority group in the Nation. We are #1 in child poverty, and we rank 49th in education; over 40% of our Native youth live in poverty here.
Settler Colonialism: “US policies and actions related to Indigenous peoples, through often termed “racist” or discriminatory,” are rarely depicted as what they are: classic cases on imperialism, a particular form of colonialism – settler colonialism…Settler Colonialism is a genocidal policy” (2 & 6). – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the US.
Bordertown Violence: Towns that are nearby reservations that are economically dependent on Indigenous peoples and that neighbor Native Nations
Police brutality against Native people: Native people are more likely to be killed by police officers than any other minority group in the Nation.
On-going struggles that continue the pattern of structural violence:
• Jurisdictional – Federal, State, County, Tribal, Private
• Lack of – Emergency Services, Amber Alert, Counseling, Family Services
• Relationships between governing entities
• FBI and Tribal Communication
• State and Tribal Communication