January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person typically through force, fraud or coercion for purposes such as forced labor or commercial sex, and it involves vulnerable populations including Native Americans.

In 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) heard testimony on the findings and recommendations of a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining the growing problem of human trafficking in Indian Country and among Native Americans.

SCIA committee chair Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said, “… human trafficking is often underreported due to a multitude of factors. Indians are considered to be one of the most vulnerable targets for trafficking. American Indian and Alaska Native women suffer sexual violence at the highest rate, per capita, in the country.”

As Congress’ independent investigative agency, the GAO had been tasked with evaluating federal data on human trafficking in Indian Country and among Native Americans in the general population.

What factors affect the ability of tribal and federal law enforcement to identify, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking in Indian Country?  Who are the victims and what systems enable or propel human trafficking? What services are available to support victims? What federal initiatives should be recommended to combat human trafficking? Do the four agencies that investigate human trafficking in Indian Country, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices maintain information on the Native American status of victims?

Join the FBA Indian Law Section for its 43rd Annual Indian Law Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona as panelists examine how tribal nations can use existing and new tools to effectively protect and secure their futures. Over the course of this two-day conference on April 5-6, 2018, panelists will evaluate effective practices for establishing a secure future for Native Americans. Register today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw18.

Indian Law Conference speakers Nathaniel Brown (Council Delegate, Navajo Nation), Christopher T. Foley (Staff Attorney, Indian Law Resource Center), Carla Fredericks (Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School), and Mary Kathryn Nagle (Partner, Pipestem Law) will discuss human trafficking in Indian Country.

Attendees will have an opportunity to engage in analysis regarding the definitions of human and sex trafficking; historical, societal, cultural, and political root causes of trafficking, including vulnerabilities and risk factors; recommendations for identifying and supporting victims; tribal codes addressing trafficking; data surrounding the prevalence of trafficking in Native American communities; and federal restrictions on tribal courts that make it difficult to hold perpetrators/traffickers accountable.

How can we best protect and secure the rights of our tribal nations?  Perhaps more so now than at any other time in distant memory tribal nations are waging battles to protect the most fundamental aspects of their sovereignty.

You will not want to miss the Indian Law Conference in Arizona this April. Register today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw18 to sign up using the early bird rate.

Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.