Native School Girls Should Not Be for Sale on the Street

By Walter Lamar, Indian Country Today Media Network

As schools across the nation are starting a new academic year, many Native girls wake to thoughts of preparation for time immemorial puberty ceremonies, their first prom and that cute fancy dancer at the annual pow wow. In contrast, the cold, stark reality for a host of other young Native girls is waking in the squalor of a seedy motel room, dank with the smell of stale beer and smoke. Their thoughts focus on the most recent beating and rape, bruises and displaced cartilage, vaginal and anal tears, the intense craving for a drug-induced escape and the powerful desire for someone to care.

As an FBI Agent in 1986 I was assigned to investigate the “Green River Murderer.” In the early 1980s, the violent strangulation deaths of 48 women in the Seattle, Washington area were attributed to a single killer. The murdered women were all alleged to have been involved in the sex trade.

After a period of time with no killings matching the killer’s signature points, I was assigned to look for places in the country where similar killings were occurring. Maybe he was dead, in jail, or killing somewhere else. The surprising results of the canvass were that many areas in the nation were reporting a similar pattern of multiple deaths, just not with such a high death count. Because these women and youths can be disposed of and not missed, people with ill intent view the poor souls engaged in the sex trade as castaways without a footprint. The Green River Murderer was arrested in 2001. When interviewed, he claimed to have killed so many, he could not remember the exact number. Over 70 deaths, a number of whom were Native American, were eventually attributed to his maniacal need to kill. After interviewing more than 50 prostitutes I clearly understood the horrific consequences of human trafficking. Their emotionless, blank stares told the story of their suffering.

Walter Lamar
Walter Lamar


Buying and selling children shouldn’t even be an issue in 21st century America, but it’s a problem that endangers disaffected youth from coast to coast, and particularly girls from Indian country. Thanks to groundbreaking work in Minnesota, not only is a picture emerging of the systematic victimization of women and children in Indian country, but states, tribes, non-profits and private companies across the U.S. and Canada are taking action to turn this problem around. However, many tribal members are still unaware of—or in denial about—the factors that lead to sex trafficking between their reservations and nearby cities or for those living in the cities.

Sexual exploitation often begins in childhood, which is so awful that the community response is often denial: “Oh no, that’s not happening here, we respect our young ones.” Two out of three child prostitutes interviewed for the Minnesota study had weak ties to family, and about half have run away from foster or group care. Children who grow up in abusive environments are far more likely to run away, to join a gang or to be tempted by promises of drugs, money or security.

Predators seek out runaway or homeless children, and about a third of runaways are forced into sex within days of hitting the streets. Once ensnared in this life, it’s hard to leave. Homelessness, addiction, financial and emotional dependence all combine with fear of being arrested tend to make trafficking victims reluctant to report their abusers, although most dream of escape. Prostitutes are regularly threatened and physically abused, both by pimps and by their customers. The level of violence is such that victims of human trafficking are 40 percent more likely to die of violent causes than other groups.

Although the clearest picture of sexual exploitation of Native youth has emerged from Minnesota, other tribes are also struggling to address sex trafficking. Elders in the Bethel region of Alaska are warning villagers about predators in Anchorage who watch for Native girls at popular teen hangouts and recruit them into prostitution and pornography with promises of an easy lifestyle. Pimps even coerce girls to recruit their friends from their villages. In South Dakota police point to the flow of young girls from the reservations to Sioux City. Liberal Portland, Oregon was shocked to discover the city had become a hub for child exploitation, involving many Native girls who had come to the city in search of a better life.

Law enforcement is reacting by engaging in active investigations and widespread sweeps of child trafficking rings. In July, an FBI sting rescued 105 teens forced into sexual slavery and arrested 150 pimps. In August, agents arrested nine men at the Sturgis motorcycle rally who were pimping girls between 12-15 years of age. Because the Internet enables child trafficking and distribution of child pornography, investigators have had to develop some serious technical expertise. The European approach has been to work with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to deter the use of their search engines to find child pornography or other images of exploited children. Working across borders, law enforcement agents continue to improve their tools for tracking child predators.

What happens to the teen and child victims of these crimes? Beds in shelters, health care, and legal assistance are usually enough to address a victim’s immediate needs, but equally critical long term needs include housing assistance, education, counseling and possibly drug and alcohol recovery. Sadly, the resources to help victims of child sex trafficking are lacking. Most cases involving underage prostitution result in no services provided to the victim.

Some states, like Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon, are working to change that by knitting together networks of providers to help these exploited children. Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Initiative increases the opportunities for young people to walk in off the street, a method called “No Wrong Door.” Under new laws in these states, children who have been prostituted cannot be charged with juvenile delinquency and are instead treated as victims of a crime. Child welfare advocates hope that if exploited youth don’t fear criminal prosecution, they will be more likely to report crimes against them.

Meanwhile, finding beds and services for victims identified under the Safe Harbor Initiative has been a challenge. If money were no object, existing networks of service providers could be expanded to accommodate victims of child prostitution. In the real world, reduced federal funding has existing programs on life support.

Concerned adults can raise awareness about what’s happening to our daughters. By writing letters or talking to our tribal governments, we can express support for providing abused and neglected children and teens with services to get them on a healing path, before they turn to the arms of a child trafficker. When endangered children feel like their needs are being heard and addressed, they find the courage and confidence to reject empty promises from pimps, gangs and other predators. If being disassociated from family and having low self-esteem are the symptoms of a girl in trouble, then being cared for by a community may be the ounce of prevention we need.

It is unimaginable to think of those lost spirits who have died under the worst of circumstances and disposed of in some unknown place. Their spirits continue to roam.

A recent Facebook post said, “I’m seeing children who are hungry, lonely and scared, doing their best to take care of each other.” The post went on to say some of our children are witness to things they shouldn’t see and are hurt with nowhere to turn. The post closed with, “We’re failing our most vulnerable.” I say that failure is not permanent, unless we fail to rise up in force to protect our future.

Walter Lamar, Blackfeet/Wichita, is a former FBI special agent, deputy director of BIA law enforcement and is currently president of Lamar Associates. Lamar Associates’ Indian Country Training Division offers culturally appropriate training for Indian country law enforcement and service professionals with both on-site and online courses.



Native Youth Among Seven Killed in Raging Colorado Floodwaters

Brennan Linsley/Associated PressThe raging floodwaters of Boulder Creek, at the base of Boulder Canyon, on Friday September 13.

Brennan Linsley/Associated Press
The raging floodwaters of Boulder Creek, at the base of Boulder Canyon, on Friday September 13.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The death toll rose to seven in the floods ravaging Colorado, among the victims American Indian Wesley Quinlan, and his girlfriend, Wiyanna Nelson, both 19.

The two were swept away by raging floodwaters on Wednesday September 11 as they tried to make it home along with two other friends, who survived. Just a week earlier the pair had vacationed with Quinlan’s mother, Glenda Aretxuloeta, to celebrate her birthday and meet her Native family members, the Denver Post reported.

“He was very, very connected to my Native American heritage,” Aretxuloeta told the newspaper, which did not give a tribal name.

As many as seven people have died in the massive floods that have been inundating Colorado since last Wednesday, including two women who are missing and presumed dead.

Boulder and Longmont, Colorado, continued to be inundated in floodwaters on September 16 as bad weather and heavy clouds grounded National Guard helicopters; more than 1,000 people awaited evacuation, and 1,000 or more were still unaccounted for, cut off because of ravaged infrastructure.

At least four people are confirmed dead, CNN reported, and two more are presumed to have perished in the raging floodwaters. Fox News said as many as seven had died.

On Saturday September 14 President Barack Obama declared Colorado a disaster area, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) said it was continuing to monitor the situation.

Besides the 19-year-old couple, two other victims were discovered in a roadway and a collapsed home, CNN said, while the two people presumed dead are two women, one 60 and the other 80.

With helicopters grounded, rescue crews were working on the ground only. But even they faced obstacles, with Colorado National Guardsmen among 51 people who had to be rescued on Sunday, along with first responders and civilians, when their own tactical trucks were stranded by rising floodwaters in Lyons, Colorado, Fox News said. Fifteen remained stranded after air rescues were suspended, the Colorado National Guard said in a statement.

“Mother Nature is not cooperating with us today, and currently we are not flying,” National Guard incident commander Shane Del Grosso told reporters, according to CNN. “But tomorrow if we get that window of opportunity, which is sounds like we might get, we have the horsepower to hit it hard.”

The toll is high financially as well, with Boulder County looking at a copy50 million repair bill that is 10 to 15 times its annual budget, the county’s transportation director, George Gerstle, told CNN. That’s to repair up to 150 miles of roads and as many as 30 bridges.

Besides the devastation and tragedy, the floods are troubling because they did not come from routine sources, National Geographic reported. Normally they come about from spring rains, or intense summer thunderstorms that dump voluminous rain in concentrated areas, said. This was different. In just a few days, 15 or more inches of rain—more than the record high for an entire month—had fallen in the Boulder area, said Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, to

“This was a totally new type of event,” he said, “an early fall widespread event during one of the driest months of the year.”

It may be yet another symptom of climate change, noted. The drought that has gripped the Colorado River Basin for 14 years has hardened the soil, and wildfires have stripped vegetation. This leaves no place for water to go, and no fauna to halt its progress, both of which can create conditions for devastating flooding.

The Navajo Nation is currently contending with a similar situation related to drought, as parts of the reservation are recovering from flooding that also occurred last week.

RELATED: Flash Flooding on Navajo Nation Displaces Scores, Wrecks Homes With Mold and Mud

Moreover, these dynamics feed into and exacerbate one another as wildfires become more frequent on a warming planet, creating more flood-prone land, said.

RELATED: Mother Earth Burning: Climate Change Will Increase Wildfire Frequency, Researchers Say

Connecting the Dots: How Climate Change Is Fueling Western Wildfires



Morning assemblies create community

Cultural values teach kids about respect and responsibility

At Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values. Photo/Andrew Gobin
At Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values. Photo/Andrew Gobin

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

Tulalip – Entering the main hallway of Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary you hear the drum beat. Nearing the gymnasium you begin to feel the beat resounding through the corridors. Kids stream in off busses, excitement building as they find a seat. Others come to school, drum in hand. This is the norm for students at Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary, where each day is begun with a song and a presentation of core Tulalip cultural values.

Started at Tulalip Elementary in its final year, the morning assemblies are an excellent forum to create a community, where students and teachers can communicate about respect and the responsibilities they have. The school’s canon of learning, GROWS, is visible in almost every aspect of the school day.

“The students have really taken to GROWS. It stands for Grow your brain, Respect for all, Own your actions and attitudes, Welcome all who come to our community, and finally Safety is paramount. The morning assemblies are used as a way to teach a value that ties into one of the GROWS,” said Dr. Anthony Craig, school principal.

The songs are led by students, with the help of occasional community volunteers. The students are seated in a fashion similar to Coast Salish traditional gatherings, which is in the round.

In an effort to build a stronger educational community, some classes are trying a technique called looping, where the students of a class will not change as they progress to the next grade. Some classrooms have dividing walls that are opened up the majority of the time, so that two classes become one larger learning group.

“We are trying to develop groups of students that learn well as individuals and as a collective,” explained Dr. Craig.

This year, Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary will develop a cultural aspect to their educational community. The Marysville School District created a cultural specialist position in the school in an effort to incorporate traditional aspects of life into the learning process. In doing so, the district supports and encourages what the faculty of the school is trying to achieve.

Former Tulalip teacher and new cultural specialist for the district Chelsea Craig said, “Here at school you see kids walking around with a drum and a school bag. They don’t have to be a native student; they can just be themselves, at school, as they are meant to.”

The Tulalip Tribes Youth Services department created two comparable positions, with the intention of collaborating with the school. Tenika Fryberg and Taylor Henry are the cultural specialists for Youth Services.

“This has never been done [in Tulalip or Marysville] before, so I plan to develop a program where the community decides what they would like to have brought into the curriculum,” noted Craig. “I’d like to see more community involvement too. Why can’t we have a grandma in the back of every class? We should make this school ours. It is ours; it belongs to the community as every school does. We shouldn’t wait for our own k-12 program, nor do we need to,” she added.

Both she and Dr. Craig acknowledge that some families are not comfortable with their children participating in these cultural activities and have other activities available for children to opt out of the cultural practices, though all of the students are still brought together as a whole for the group message in an effort to continue to develop the learning community that is Tulalip Quil Ceda Elementary.

Tulalip on Lopez Island

Tulalip youth at Lopez Island
Photo/Andrew Gobin

Lopez Island − Two aging piers, a bit of history and a lot of fun. Tulalip kids paid a visit to the tribes’ property at MacKaye Harbor on Thursday, August 22.

Tulalip Youth Services offers a plethora of activities during the summer to occupy kids, including movie premiers, whirly ball, and trips to Wildwaves. This year, youth services wanted to do something different.

“We usually do the same things, make the same trips, but those things are typically open year round,” said Tony Hatch, who organized the trip. “We wanted to do something special, something different. So we brought the kids up here to learn about the tribes’ fishing history.”

He and Ron Iukes reminisced about fishing and staying on the docks during the summer.

“It’s good that the kids see this part of our history, and where we fished off the reservation,” Hatch added. “Here, they also get to see some of the tribes’ property that has been put on the back burner.”

Tulalip fishermen used to fish the San Juan Islands more frequently, which led to the purchase of land. Today, four tracts of land are owned by Tulalip, the first purchased in 1986, two in 1993, and one in 2005, according to the San Juan County Assessor. They still fish there today, though not as often as the decades leading in to the 1980s and early 1990s.

The tribe did plan to renovate the docks, and began work on one in recent years, but the project has not progressed since.

Hatch said, “It is unclear what Tulalip will do with the land, but we’d like to plan an end of the year camp next year.”

Hatching nest eggs, a walk in Finance Park

Native youth attend Junior Achievement camp

Upon entering Finance Park, students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card, to learn how to juggle their finances in "real world" situations.
Upon entering Finance Park, students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card, to learn how to juggle their finances in “real world” situations. Photo/Andrew Gobin.

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

Students from the Tulalip Tribes Summer Youth Program spent the day in Finance Park at Junior Achievement World in Auburn, on Thursday, August 15th. The day at the park is the culmination of a two-week educational JA (Junior Achievement) camp at Tulalip. The camp is unique to the tribes as it targets what Tulalip students are calling their “18 money,” the trust fund per capita that the tribe sets aside for them until they graduate. The Tulalip camp focuses on the trust fund, and teaches how to make that money go further.

“Junior Achievement is actually a k-12 curriculum,” explains Gary Hauff, regional director for Junior Achievement. “Typically we go into schools and offer education programs for class credit. For the tribes, we are trying something different. The summer camp is unique to Tulalip, geared towards teaching personal finance responsibility and budgeting agendas.”

“At JA we work with the youth to plant the seeds of financial responsibility and stability,” added Sue Elkin, manager at JA World.

Finance Park is designed as a virtual city where students can practice being adults, and put into action what they learned at camp. Arriving at JA World, the students are given an identity complete with a salary, a family, pets, and a debit card. Students then buy or rent a house or apartment, purchase a car that adequately fit the demands of their virtual life, collect and pay their bills, and even make time for vacations. Along with projected costs, kids learn to deal with unexpected costs that arise in everyday life.  Students tour the park, collecting bills and shopping, and making the dreaded stop at the chance station, where they draw cards that may result in an unlucky additional cost to their budget, such as taking their pet to the vet.

“We get a real look at life, and what the costs are,” said Bradley Fryberg. “Here [Finance Park] I make $48,000 a year, I have no kids, I’m single, 30, and have an apartment and a sports car.”

Some students juggled two or three kids and drove mini vans.

“Junior Achievement teaches us to be responsible with our money,” said Bryce Juneau Jr. who is planning on saving his trust money until after college.

Students learn about stocks and bonds, compound interest accounts, the risks associated with both of those, and the possible gains they offer.

“Just as life is multi-faceted, we at JA are diversifying,” explained Elkin. “We used to be strictly business oriented, then last year we started branching out into the sciences and other fields. This year we worked to incorporate art and music into the program.”

Tulalip Tribal Member, Israel Simpson, and his winning shoe design. Photo/Andrew Gobin
Tulalip Tribal Member, Israel Simpson, and his winning shoe design. Photo/Andrew Gobin

This included a little fun competition working with shoe designs and a special appearance by Native shoe designer Louie Gong.

Gong spoke to the students about his designs and the work it entails. He provided shoe forms called “mockups” for the kids to express their creative talent on. The shoes were then voted on and the student with the winning shoe design received tickets to a Mariners game.

Tulalip’s Israel Simpson designed the winning pair of shoes. “I just picked up the pens and kept going. Inspired from my auntie, always saying, draw what you feel.”

The camp encourages education, both in the completion of high school and in pursuing higher education. This is important, because many do not realize that should they not complete high school or get their G.E.D., they with not get their trust per capita until they are 21.

Many different post high school options are explained including trade schools, community colleges, universities, online degrees, and entrepreneurship.


Coyote was Going There, Native Youth Performance

May 22 – Sunday  7pm

Red Eagle Soaring Native American Theatre Group presents
Coyote was Going There
Native Youth Performance
The premiere performance of an original play created by students and
teaching artist Jake Hart (Blackfeet/Cherokee) in Red Eagle Soaring’s Fifth
Annual Spring Performance Project

The event is FREE & Open to the public – FREEWILL donations will be requested.

Rainier Valley Cultural Center
3515 S Alaska St,  Seattle   map
(206) 725-7517

For more information, contact Red Eagle Soaring at (206) 323-1868 or visit the
website at: