Yurok Tribe Declares State of Emergency Following Series of Human Trafficking Attempts | Lost Coast Outpost
Today, the Yurok Tribal Council issued an emergency declaration in response to a wave of missing persons and attempted human trafficking incidents on the reservation and in Arcata, where there are a disproportionate number of cases involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
âToday, we are calling on our local, state and federal partners to take a stronger stand against trafficking in Indigenous women and girls,â said Joseph L. James, President of the Yurok Tribe. âAlthough human trafficking and kidnappings have been all too common in the Humboldt County area, I ask all of our members to be very careful at this time. If you have to travel to town, please take someone with you and let a family member know when you plan to return.
Last month, the Yurok Tribal Court received reports of seven Yurok women, including mothers with young children, who have been approached by potential traffickers. Fortunately, everyone was able to get to safety. In mid-October, Emmilee Risling was declared missing. The Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribe, working with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, implemented a month-long coordinated effort to locate her, but she has not been found. The Hupa woman was last seen near Weitchpec in the Yurok reserve. The Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes are offering a reward of $ 20,000 for information leading to the safe return of Emmilee.
The tribal council issued the declaration of emergency through a resolution, which addresses the underlying cause of the MMIW crisis. According to the resolution: “The intergenerational impacts of 170 years of violence, trafficking and murder through missions, massacres, forced displacement, state-sanctioned contract servitude, boarding schools, widespread withdrawal of children. disproportionate incarceration, police violence and high rates of gender-based violence continue to occur to this day and directly contribute to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “
On a per capita basis, indigenous women and girls are victims of human trafficking at a much higher rate. Tribes across the United States are pleading for additional resources to address this indelible problem. In 2020, 5,295 indigenous people were reported missing at the National Crime Information Center. At the end of the same year, 1,496 were still missing. Last year there were 18 cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in California, according to a report produced by the Yurok Tribal Court and the Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI). The actual number is likely much higher because MMIWG cases are poorly documented at state and federal levels. A third of all cases in California have occurred in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, despite sparse populations in those areas. Worse yet, murders of Indigenous women in the state are seven times less likely to be solved.
âEach of our families has been affected by this problem. This cannot be allowed to continue, âPresident James said.
Over the past two years, the Yurok Tribe has dramatically increased their ability to respond to MMIW cases both on and off the reservation. In 2019, the Yurok Tribal Court, in partnership with SBI, launched the To ‘Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-wo-chek ‘(I’ll see you the wrong way) program to tackle the crisis. The program aims to improve the effectiveness of MMIW investigations and establish an increased level of protection for Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people in California, one of the top five states for MMIW cases. The program is also developing the state’s first MMIW database. Additionally, the court formed the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor, which helps investigate and prosecute MMIW and domestic violence cases in all jurisdictions.
Similar to the Yurok tribe, most tribes are located in rural areas, where law enforcement is minimal due to persistent inequalities in federal funding. Predators intentionally target rural and tribal lands as there is less chance of getting caught. MMIW cases, including local incidents, often involve multiple law enforcement jurisdictions, making investigations infinitely more difficult. Prior to the formation of the Tribal Court’s MMIWG2 program, the tribe had no formal means of influencing off-reserve affairs. In many states, including California, tribes are further constrained by public law 280. Public law 280 gives the state jurisdiction over most violent crimes. When federal lawmakers determine where to distribute tribal law enforcement dollars, the PL 280 tribal states are often left out. There is no doubt that PL 280 contributed to the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Humboldt County.
âThe amount of MMIW cases in the region and across the country is staggering. This must change and it must change now, âconcluded President James.
Here are some useful tips to avoid falling victim to human traffickers
- In public, be aware of your surroundings.
- Traveling in a group
- Trust your instincts
- Beware of strangers who contact you through social media
- Take quick action – if someone puts you in danger, leave immediately and report it to law enforcement
- Learn Self Defense