MMIP and Human Trafficking
Generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives have mourned missing and murdered loved ones. Their calls for justice and healing through grassroots activism and advocacy have created nationwide attention and increased support for this Missing or Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) crisis.
Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR), or other names specific to a Tribal community (such as Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives, MMDR, in the Navajo Nation) all refer to this crisis.
“Families are going to need support as well. When a loved one goes missing, what the family experiences is very traumatic and devastating. When they come home, those families need a lot of support to understand trauma, trauma response, what their loved ones have gone through, and how to better support their loved ones.”
- Carolyn DeFord, Puyallup Tribe of Indians
Federal Funding for MMIP
Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside (TVSSA) funds can be used to support the family members of victims of MMIP. This funding can be used to generate awareness about their loved ones and cases. TVSSA funds can be used to—
- Increase MMIP community awareness.
- Develop MMIP response protocols between multiple agencies and organizations.
- Offer education on the intersections of MMIP with other crimes (e.g., domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking).
- Promote a Tribal program’s healing services for families and survivors.
TVSSA funding is non-competitive. For more details about the types of victim service activities that can be supported through this TVSSA program, see the fiscal year 2022 TVSSA Program Announcement.
In addition to TVSSA, there are other federal funding programs available to support the response to MMIP.
Working together will help bring healing and justice to the victims and families of MMIP. Click on the headers below to find basic educational materials and resources to get you started in supporting MMIP work.
When a loved one goes missing, time is critical. Do not delay in contacting local or tribal police to file a report when a family member or friend, regardless of their age, goes missing. This is especially important when there are any health issues, disabilities, impairments, or medication requirements.
Coordinated law enforcement response is pivotal because until a law enforcement investigation is conducted, it may be unknown if an individual is in danger. Taking a law enforcement report on every missing person is critical.
Addressing the MMIP crisis requires a multi-disciplinary response. Tribal and state MMIP taskforces across the country, including Operation Lady Justice the federal MMIP taskforce, are working to improve the response to MMIP.
More than 70 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in suburban and urban communities.
- Build your knowledge about the alarming prevalence of MMIP
- Learn about MMIP and recommendations for addressing the crisis
- Reach out to tribal coalitions and tribal victim service providers
- Visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for additional resources
Know your community, build community, and do community organizing. Participate in marches and rallies. Share fliers and posters of individuals missing in your local area. Connect with local media, Tribal newspapers, community newsletters, television, and radio stations. Work with system providers (e.g., law enforcement, prosecution, homeless shelters). Look for those community agencies connecting with victims of human trafficking or those who are missing. Homeless shelters are big partners in this work because homelessness makes an individual more vulnerable to human trafficking. There is an opportunity to train homeless shelter staff on human trafficking indicators and what they can do in this space.
Involve a victim advocate with experience in working in this area. Every state has a law enforcement training facility. Advocate for training on human trafficking, child sex trafficking, MMIP cases are required law enforcement trainings. Without training, law enforcement is not able to identify human trafficking. Once they know the signs of human trafficking, they are more aware of these signs in their work. Provide case studies, scenarios, and help them open their perspective to this issue. Implement a victim perspective in any law enforcement training so they have a trauma-informed perspective. This exploitation often starts as a child or teen; this is helpful information to give law enforcement working with individuals in the sex industry and escort service.
It is not easy work. It is very rewarding but hard mentally, spiritually, and physically. Education is another way to get into MMIP work. Learn about the issue, make connections, and identify where you can offer your skills. Find trainings and courses to educate yourself and use what you learn to share information with others. Assess services, needs/gaps, and information available to your community. Once the needs and gaps are recognized, you can target your services, training, and efforts. Use conversations and awareness efforts to educate on the indicators and how domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking are connected. People will start recognizing indicators and seeing it in their everyday activities, then they will start talking about it. Network with stakeholders and other organizations who provide services at the intersections to see if they can help with resources or outreach. For example, will the local business office allow outreach signage in their public restrooms or on their lobby reader boards? Can you build a relationship with a local hotel to train their staff? Can you email them materials and missing posters to send to all the hotels in their networks? Email them relevant news articles or resources about the issues in their field as they become available. Lastly, do the job you want to do. Volunteer, be an ally, amplify survivor voices, share information, and talk, talk, and talk about it. Whatever your employment or job, see if there is a role for advocacy and awareness in your place of work. No matter what that is; there is something for everyone to do to raise awareness. Share the knowledge you bring to new places. There is a lot of trust building that needs to happen as you do this work and it takes time to build relationships.
Two-Spirit is a direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag, Two-Spirited or Two-Spirit, is usually used to indicate a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. Male Two-Spirits were considered a "third gender," and female Two-Spirits were considered a "fourth gender.” The term “Two-Spirit” emerged in 1990 at the third annual inter-Tribal Native American/First Nations Gay/Lesbian conference in Winnipeg, Canada. The term Two-Spirit was created for Native American individuals who wanted to take a step back from the mainstream language of LGBTQIA+ and connect specifically to culture and spirituality. It was also a way to claim their Native identity and their roles in community. The term Two-Spirit is a universal term used across Indigenous communities. Remember, the term “Two-Spirit” is a concept that was created by Native people and should only be used by Native people who identify. Also, remember some Indigenous communities may not use or identify with the word Two-Spirit because of their own unique cultural beliefs embracing Two-Spirit or Native LGBTQIA+ relatives. Before colonization, Two-Spirit and Native LGBTQIA+ people were looked up to as “Spiritual Beings” because of the role they played in community. They were considered healers or medicine persons, parents of orphaned children, conveyors of oral traditions and songs (Yuki), foretellers of the future (Winnebago, Oglala Lakota), name-givers of children or adults (Oglala Lakota, Tohono O'odham), nurses during war expeditions, potters (Zuni, Navajo, Tohono O'odham), matchmakers (Cheyenne, Omaha, Oglala Lakota), makers of feather regalia for dances (Maidu), and special role players in the Sun Dance (Crow, Hidatsa, Oglala Lakota). Today, they are looked upon as “sexual beings,” and frowned upon. Ask someone who is Native, and who you think identifies, “How do you identify?”
If you or a loved one are experiencing human trafficking, you are not alone.
Strong Hearts Native Helpline and the National Human Trafficking hotline are available 24/7 to listen. All conversations over phone, text, and online chat are confidential and anonymous.
- Strong Hearts Native Helpline - 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) is a 24/7 safe, confidential, and anonymous domestic, dating and sexual violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offering culturally appropriate support and advocacy.
- National Human Trafficking Hotline - 1-888-373-7888, text "BeFree" (233733), or live chat at humantraffickinghotline.org.
During your conversations, if you desire, you may receive referrals to state or local resources.