Human trafficking in our communities

Maureen Lomahaptewa is on today's newscast to talk about her work with The Life Link. And deputy managing editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye is back from her trip through a 5-hour gauntlet as she walked through preparations for the presidential inauguration.
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This month is national slavery and human trafficking prevention month has the creed by presidential proclamation. January is also known as human trafficking awareness month. This is an issue that severely impacts Indian Country. Indigenous people are at a higher risk of human trafficking, according to the national Indigenous women's resource center. But one nonprofit is dedicated to helping others who are coming out of human trafficking. Hopi citizen Maureen Lomahaptewa is a certified peer victim specialist at The Life Link and she has been working with the program for 10 years. She joins us today to talk about how this issue impacts families and what you can do to spot the warning signs.  

It's a maze in Washington D.C. Locals are reporting that it's taking twice as long to get to work and it's not due to traffic, but rather the huge barriers that are now set up all around the Capitol and White House. Our deputy managing editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye spent five hours navigating the massive security and she takes us on her tour that started at 1:00 PM and ended as the sun went down around 6:00 PM. Jordan joins the newscast to tell us more about the preparations.

A slice of our Indigenous world

The new administration is wasting no time to reverse some of the more controversial decisions from the past four years and that may include one key pipeline. And we have more on a bill that could create a process to rename Utah landmarks that are offensive to Native Americans. Plus An Indigenous middle school in Northern Wisconsin is launching its way into history. Also we'll tell you more on the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma's first hunting and fishing reserve. You'll find on all of these stories at the top of the newscast today.

Some quotes from todays show

Maureen Lomaheptewa:

"This issue is very important due to the fact that it happens in our backyards today. It happens with family members with people you don't even know that are walking on the street. You don't know the situations that they may come across, especially with children and young teens. A lot of the victims that we had worked with come from a lot of vulnerable homes backgrounds, foster care system, and also it is within the rich communities as well."

"You just never know the type of situation that any one of us could walk into with human trafficking. Any person walking on the street, even myself to you as well. We could be targets and they do target a lot of vulnerable people, but it could happen to any one of us. So that's why it's so important to educate, learn and talk about human trafficking amongst each other and in your communities and worldwide."

"I think just the piece of it that a lot of people don't understand is that it happens a lot within homes. A lot of children are trafficked by their own parents, relatives, uncles, aunts. A lot of people think human trafficking has a lot to do with the movies that are put out. But that's just all glamorized and it's not realistic. And a lot of people don't understand how a victim becomes a victim of trafficking."  

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

"Well, Mark it was freezing and it's expected to be even colder tomorrow. So I'm wondering how we're all going to stay warm out there, we'll see how the wind goes. It took five hours just navigating, cause it was definitely a maze as you said. There were barricades everywhere, everywhere that I would typically walk just on like a summer day, but every time I was going to the sidewalk, I was met with fences." 

"There's only very few entrances and even then there are troops everywhere. There are secret service everywhere asking you questions, who you are, what your credentials are and directing you toward the right path. I think it was very chilling, just watching, walking in an area that was so populated by tourists and tour buses and government officials and all that to become a place that's so fenced in and barricaded."

"And I think as a woman of color, it was definitely a chilling and different experience. Although I did feel safe, it felt very intimidating to be in all of that. I talked to this white, blonde haired reporter. He asked us all, did you have any trouble getting into the area we were at? I was like, no, but he's all, well I had a troop follow me for three blocks. My jaw just dropped and I was like, wow, no, I didn't have any trouble. He flipped back his hair and said well, I kind of fit the profile. And it just took everything in me to not say welcome to my world."

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the deputy managing editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb or email her at jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com. Bennett-Begaye’s Grey’s Anatomy obsession started while attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.