Why I Am a Safe Harbor Navigator

I grew up on the Fond Du Lac reservation and attended school at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM), with a desire to learn more about my family history and why my grandparents were so desperate to leave reservation life in the 1940s. I worked as a research assistant with an anthropology professor, which included conducting research on UMM’s history as a boarding school for Indigenous children. I also transcribed Elder oral histories.

After graduation, I worked at Someplace Safe as a general crimes advocate, a child protection investigator, a voluntary case manager for families accessing county funding to prevent out of home placement, and many other roles. This work taught me a lot about how tribal systems work and how racist systems impact the lives of Indigenous people in Minnesota.

I also saw how physical and sexual abuse experienced in boarding schools impacted direct descendants of survivors generations later.

I started feeling especially passionate about providing education on historical trauma and systemic oppression, as well as prevention work. I learned about adverse childhood experiences and resilience, and more about how human trafficking is intertwined with vulnerabilities that Indigenous communities experience. I joined the Minnesota Safe Harbor system as a navigator, which makes me feel like I can help change the lives of our vulnerable populations on a larger scale.

I was part of the first nationwide all-Indigenous group of professionals and survivors. This cohort developed recommendations for federal partners, tribes, and state agencies on how culture can be used as a protective factor against human trafficking of Indigenous youth. I am using these recommendations in my work in west central Minnesota and to partners across the state.

We know that historical trauma and systemic oppression leads to a disproportionate number of Indigenous people being trafficked. What we need to learn are ways that partners and communities can respond to Indigenous survivors, and what we can do on multiple levels to change outcomes for tribal communities and Indigenous individuals who do not reside on tribal communities. This is my life’s passion.

Details: tinyurl.com/MNSafeHarbor