Children and adolescents across Indian Country are being targeted.




Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).

– Federal Law, National Human Trafficking Hotline

“Trafficking has impacted Native communities for centuries, since the earliest point of contact with Europeans. According to journal accounts, Christopher Columbus engaged in the exploitation of Indigenous people, including providing Indigenous women and girls for his crew, and tolerating rape and other atrocities.”

 – Victoria Sweet, Disproportionate Impacts of Human Trafficking on Native Communities

what can tribal communities and child welfare agencies do?

A first step is recognizing the issue and becoming informed.


 what is sex trafficking?

 This is the first video in a comprehensive series highlighting the scope of this national issue.

 Learn common trafficking terms from Shared Hope International.



  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
  • Child Welfare Services Involvement
  • Run Away/Thrown Away/Homeless
  • Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence
  • Minimal Social Support
  • Poverty
  • Limited Education
  • Lack of Work Opportunities
  • History of Previous Sexual Abuse
  • Drug or Alcohol Addiction
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • History of Truancy
  • Physical, Mental, Emotional Health Challenges


of all sex trafficking victims have histories in child welfare system.

Source: National Foster Youth Institute


American Indian/Alaska Native children enter into foster care nationally at a rate 2.6% times higher than non-Natives. For some individual states, this rate is drastically higher.

Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

native YOUTH

… are 2.5 times more likely to experience trauma from exposure to violence than non-tribal peers.


… experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a rate of 22% – the same rate as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – which is triple the rate of the general population.

Perpetrators target homeless and runaway youth.

 “When a girl leaves home or foster care, she is usually running away from something with hopes for a better life. … Once she is on her own, however, she is exceptionally vulnerable.”

Learn more about how runaway youth
are prime targets from The Life Story.

The Life Story

Inspiring survivors of the sex trade and allies offer their stories and solutions, detailing 13 moments to make a difference. Material from The Life Story is embedded throughout this site, but we recommend spending some time to listen to, and reflect on, all they have to offer.

“Two-Spirit/Native LGBTQ adults and youth are often a forgotten and underserved population in all areas. Our specific population lacks the data and research needed to prove that sex and human trafficking is happening. We need to continue to educate and bring awareness.”

Lenny Hayes (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)




“Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) are over-represented in the child welfare system and also among people experiencing homelessness.”


  • Half of runaway/homeless youth had been in foster care.
  • 95% reported some form of trauma.
  • LGBTQ youth were more likely to be:
    • homeless due to being kicked out of their homes.
    • homeless for more than one year.
    • abused physically and sexually as a child.
    • victims of sex trafficking.
    • victimized while homeless.

Source: Forge, N., Hartinger-Saunders, R., Wright, E., & Ruel, E. (2018). Out of the System and onto the Streets: LGBTQ-Identified Youth Experiencing Homelessness with Past Child Welfare System Involvement. Child Welfare. 96(2).


There is a link between childhood abuse, trauma, and future exploitation.   


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as … “stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders.” ACEs are known to have lifelong detrimental impacts on a person’s well-being. While many ACEs materials exist, few focus specifically on American Indian and Alaska Native children. 



“Seventy-nine percent of the Native American women involved in prostitution that we interviewed were victims of childhood sexual abuse by an average of four perpetrators.”

Nicole, advocate for Native women, quoted within The Life Story, Child Sexual Abuse


of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime.

Perpetrators target native women and girls.

Victimization rates are 1.2 times higher for Native women than White women.

Native women are more likely to be victims of violence by an interracial perpetrator rather than a Native perpetrator.

The NIJ concluded that these findings offer strong support for the sovereign rights of tribes to criminally prosecute non-Indian perpetrators and that continued progress must be made to provide justice for Native victims.

Learn about missing and murdered Indigenous women from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

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The Children's Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. The contents of this website and the resources herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Children's Bureau. 

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