March 30, 2021
In the summer of 2019, Molina Richards got a call that made her stomach sink. One of her best friend’s teenage daughters had gone missing on the Rosebud Reservation.
It took police several days to organize a formal search party because they kept getting tips that she had been seen in various parts of the vast, 1,900-square-mile reservation in one of the most isolated parts of the lower 48 states.
“All the leads, they didn’t find her,” Richards said, choking back tears as she recalled the trauma of that July day.
Richards ended up part of a six-person search team on ATVs. They finally found Waniyetu Rose Loves War whose English name was Autumn. She was dead at 19.
But Richards had already feared the worst.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, growing up here,” she said.
Nobody knows how many indigenous people go missing or are murdered every year. There’s just not a lot of comprehensive data. But on long neglected reservations such as Rosebud, tribal members are convinced the crisis is worsening everyday.
Tribal governments are renewing pressure on federal and state authorities to devote more resources to the crisis, and there are signs that’s starting to happen.
“With Waniyetu’s situation, I promised my friend I would never let anybody forget her name,” Richards said.
“Like a pandemic”
To that end, Richards wrote and recently won a grant from CARES Act funds available to tribes to open a shelter for women and homeless teens on the reservation. The first of its kind safehouse will be staffed around the clock. It will also be a badly needed refuge for people who are otherwise walking out in the cold all night, organizers said, moving from boarded up gang-run houses, to drug parties, their feet swollen, or far worse.
Read or listen to the full story by Kirk Siegler on NPR.
October 3, 2018
Human trafficking in South Dakota is a more pressing issue than some may realize.
According to Sacred Heart Monastery Sisters Mary Jo Polak and Joelle Bauer, this is partially due to the interstate highway system and events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and other such predominantly male gatherings, that indirectly contribute to the trafficking issue.
“Brendan Johnson, the former U.S. attorney here in South Dakota, said that wherever you have a large gathering of men, you have a strong opportunity for prostitution and sex trafficking,” Polak said.
Polak and Bauer are members of the monastery’s Peace & Justice Education Committee, which tackles issues such as racism, immigration and gun violence.
Human trafficking recently became a big concern for the committee after Bauer attended a leadership conference in which trafficking people for sex and labor was the main focus. Since raising the issue back at the monastery, presentations and coordination with local agencies have been a priority with the Peace & Justice Education Committee.
The committee has organized two upcoming presentations about human trafficking. The first will be held at Mount Marty College on Oct. 4. The talk, “Labor Trafficking and the Importance of Fair Trade,” will be presented in Roncalli at noon by monastery residential volunteer Kimberly Mosqueda. The second presentation will be part of the monastery’s Theology Institute, called “Human Trafficking: A Christian Response.” It will be presented by S. Theresa Wolf from 9 a.m.-noon on Oct. 13.
The public is invited to attend both presentations, but are advised to register for the second one ahead of time by calling the monastery at 668-6000.
Both Bauer and Polak have heavily researched human trafficking and have discovered that it takes many forms.
While most people may automatically think of sex work when they hear “human trafficking,” labor is also a factor in the practice.
To read the fullest story by Reilly Biel on The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan: Click Here