Duluth Raising Awareness on Human Trafficking Impacting Indigenous Families

A ceremony honoring trafficking victims kicked off with a song and round dance with red solidarity shawls. A ceremony honoring trafficking victims kicked off with a song and round dance with red solidarity shawls. |  Photo: WDIO

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: January 06, 2020 06:20 PM

January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month. A community gathering in Duluth honored victims and survivors Monday afternoon at the Robert Powless Cultural Center.


In Duluth, the focus is on missing and murdered indigenous women. They are affected by trafficking at 10 times the rate of other populations in the region.

The gathering featured Duluth Mayor Emily Larson's official proclamation of Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Duluth.

Human trafficking is something that affects everyone. That's why local organizations and state officials gathered to voice their efforts to stop this from happening to more and more victims.

"Four out of five young native women and girls experience sexual violence in their lifetime. It's really heartbreaking that Minnesota ranks number nine nationally in missing and murdered indigenous women numbers," said Mary Kunesh- Podein, the co-chair of the Women Task Force.

The Department of Justice reports native women are stalked and murdered at higher rates than other populations of women in the United States.

"This doesn't just happen in other places, it's happening right here in Duluth, Minnesota. It's happening in rural Minnesota," said Rep. Pete Stauber.

These are heartbreaking facts that speak about how big of an issue human trafficking is and how it hits close to home.

A ceremony honoring trafficking victims kicked off with a song and round dance with red solidarity shawls, honoring generations of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

"It's bringing that awareness out into the community. This is the third year that we've been involved in supporting and each year it continues to grow," said Rene Ann Goodrich, a member of the Native Lives Matter Coalition.

The event is an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless and raise awareness on how native women are targeted in this hidden crime.

"People go to the reservations and just kidnap women, because we're vulnerable, where no one sees us," said Rachel Goodsky, a Sacred Hoop Coalition outreach coordinator.

That's why leaders say speaking up and taking action is key by making this issue a priority so it doesn't continue affecting more families.

"If you see any native woman or a child that is scared or alone with somebody call the police," said Goodsky.

"Recognize some red flags that someone may be targeted or they're struggling, so please reach out," said Goodrich. 

Leaders also say being aware of laws that protect victims like Safe Harbor, is important.

Awareness events going on throughout the month are listed below:

-Two Harbors Candlelight Vigil; 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at Lake County Courthouse

-"How Youth Get Caught Up in Sex Trafficking;" 8 a.m.- 9 a.m. Jan. 14 at Life House Youth Center, 102 W. First St. in Duluth

-Gichi Manidoo Giizis Pow Wow; 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Jan. 18 at Black Bear Casino, 1785 Highway 210 in Carlton

-Red for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Info Session-Red dress, red skirt making; 1-6 p.m. Jan. 19 at Building for Women, 32 E. First St. in Duluth

-MMIW Research Project Presentation; 5 p.m.- 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center, 202 W. Second St.

-Brave Art Youth Resource Fair; 5-7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center, 202 W. Second St.

-Human Trafficking in MN- Safe Harbor Systems Moving Forward Conference; 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 at Breezy Point Resort.

-MMIW Banner and Art Making; 2-5 p.m. Feb. 13 at Central Hillside Community Center, 12 E. Fourth St. in Duluth

-5th Annual MMIW Memorial March; 2-6 p.m. Feb. 14 at American Indian Community Housing Org., 202 W. Second St. in Duluth

- MMIW Family Gathering; 2-6 p.m. Feb. 15 at One Roof Community Center at 12 E 4th St in Duluth

-Great Lakes Red for MMIW Initiative; 4:30-6:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at Duluth Public Library, 520 N. First Ave E. in Duluth

Any families in need of additional support to help raise awareness for missing or murdered loved ones can contact the Natives Lives Matter Coalition via email:

To reach a non-governmental organization for confidential help and information, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or the StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-762-8483.

To schedule training on trafficking in Minnesota, contact Mel Alvar, NE Regional Navigator at or the Sacred Hoop Coalition at 218-623-4667.

Call 911 as soon as a disappearance occurs.


Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


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