Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!
How are you all doing? Honestly, I don’t know what to say to you all about how I’m feeling. But, this I know: despite my fears and worries about where we are as a nation and where we’re headed, I have much for which to be thankful and I need to take a break from the woebegone mood that has surrounded me and rejoice in all the good that I have in my life. Then, from this renewed perspective, I can step out and work to bring safety and comfort to those around me. My prayer for you, dear friends, is that you have had a chance to take stock of your many blessings and that you are ready to get back to work for love’s sake.
Last week, we began a look at the many options we have for fulfilling the resolution brought to us by Covenant 5 at our Diocesan Convention. We’ll continue that this week and add a little extra detail to give you even more to consider.
This next resolution on Covenant 5’s list is:
A029 Protect Human Trafficking Victims on Indian Reservations in Montana and North Dakota
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 78th General Convention calls for the protection of all victims of human trafficking, particularly women and children, by providing necessary attention to their physical, psychological, and social needs using approaches that respect victims’ rights and integrity; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention urges members of The Episcopal Church to support legislation, and engage in action to promote the recovery and reintegration into society of victims of human trafficking; providing a safe, dignified, and sustainable way for trafficking victims to reintegrate into society and lead a normalized life; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention affirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church with groups of the United Nations dealing with human-trafficking issues, particularly, though not exclusively, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, for the purposes of education, advocacy, and collaborative partnerships, and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council Coordinating Committee on Resolution 2012-D042, established in February 2014 be continued in the 2015-2018 Triennium “to assure the effective, thorough, and collaborative implementation of the policies adopted by the 77th General Convention and referred to multiple bodies,” such as the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women and the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries; and be it further
Resolved, That this collaborative effort provide resources for every diocese to conduct an educational campaign to make the public aware of the impact of human trafficking on Indigenous and immigrant peoples, both worldwide and within the dioceses of The Episcopal Church, such as Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota, and to inspire action by individuals, congregations and dioceses to protect victims of human trafficking; and be it further
Resolved, That bishops and provinces be encouraged to report such actions to Executive Council.
While not specifically related to this resolution, North Dakota has been in the news a lot lately because of the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline – and the news from there has been tragic this last week. The Episcopal Church stands with the people of Standing Rock to protect their water supply and their sacred lands. Right now, continued construction is on hold after the Army Corps of Engineers determined that “additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”
Despite the halt in construction, the water protectors were victims of aggressive action by police and security forces on Monday. According to eye-witness reports and live-streaming videos, police fired water cannons, rubber bullets and concussion grenades at the crowds protesting on the bridge. One young woman was seriously hurt:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22nd, 2016 at 9:00am CST
For Press Conference information contact email@example.com
Prepared by Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council at the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance Camps
On November 21st as a direct result of the violent police response at Standing Rock towards unarmed people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 21 year old woman from New York City, Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured when a concussion grenade thrown by police hit her left arm and exploded. Sophia was heading to bring water to the unarmed people who were being attacked for several hours by Morton County Sheriff forces. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has stated that she was injured by a purported propane explosion that the Sheriff’s Department claimed the unarmed people created. These statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, by several eye-witnesses who watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people, by the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.
Sophia was safely taken out of North Dakota for emergent surgery and is currently in stable condition. Below is her statement as conveyed by her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky.
“At around 4:30am after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly at protesters or protectors as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident – it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage. Sophia will have surgery again tomorrow as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand. There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.”
A fund set up by friends and verified to help with Sophia’s recovery is set up here:
The Standing Rock Medic Healer Council deplores the ongoing use of violence by the state of North Dakota to address the concerns of the thousands of people peacefully assembled at Standing Rock to insist on the right to clean healthy drinking water.
Water is Life, Mni Wiconi
Linda Black Elk, PhD, Ethnobotanist, Sitting Bull College
Michael Knudsen, MPH candidate, Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council
Noah Morris, EMT
Amelia Massucco, RN
John Andrews, RN
Kristina Golden, EMT, herbalist
Sebastian Rodriguez, RN
Rosemary Fister, RN, MNPHN, DNP Candidate
Rupa Marya, MD, DoNoHarm Coalition, University of California – San Francisco
David Kingfisher, MD, JD, Wichita State University
Jesse Lopez, MD, Heartland Surgical Care
Kalama O Ka Aina Niheu, MD, Aha Aloha Aina
Howard Ehrman, MD, MPH, University of Illinois – Chicago
Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, University of Chicago
Elizabeth Friedman, MD
Vanessa Bolin, ALS Paramedic
Contact: Michael Knudsen, Medic Coordinator and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ethno-botanist Linda Black Elk, PhD – firstname.lastname@example.org
Our phone calls and emails of support are still needed. The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) makes it easy to reach your legislators. Just fill in the required information and EPPN will send your letter to the right people. Here’s the link – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/write-a-letter?3&engagementId=249413
The situation at Standing Rock may seem very different than the concerns raised by this resolution; however, there is a link in the history of how our government has treated the native peoples. Moving tribal groups to land which cannot support their historically agrarian and hunting lifestyles has led to extreme hardship. Then, as soon as we realize that these lands have resources needed for our own consumption, we bring in mining and pipeline construction and manage to claim the land for our use. Employment opportunities increase during these periods of corporate development until oil prices drop or mining becomes unprofitable resulting in rampant unemployment. The land is then ruined for further farming and the animal population has dwindled. Once again, corporate interests are trying to take precedence over the rights of Native Americans to their lands – the lands on which we forced them to live. This scenario is precisely the connection between Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline and Resolution A029.
When I first read the resolution we’re presenting this week, I knew nothing about the problem of sex-trafficking in Native communities. One quick Google search brought up a host of articles speaking to this concern. According to an article in Business Insider, the widespread use of methamphetamines – more than twice the rate of meth use in any other ethnicity in our country – has led to a crisis in the Native American community. Tribal leader Floyd Azure of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana reported: “We’re in crisis mode. We have mothers giving their children away for sexual favors for drugs. We have teenagers and young girls giving away sexual favors for drugs.” The article added: “Drug debt is a forceful driver of trafficking, and dealers threaten users to pay up by any means,” said Sgt. Grant Snyder, a trafficking investigator with the Minneapolis Police Department. “Maybe it’s your 12-year-old daughter, maybe it’s your 5-year-old daughter,” he said. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-fueled-by-drugs-sex-trafficking-reaches-crisis-on-native-american-reservation-2016-5
For you and me, this may seem so hard to fathom and that’s why this resolution is so important. We need to put aside our own privilege and see how we can reach out to help. First, as always, we must become educated. From the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center’s Tribal Insights Brief (Spring 2016), I learned that “the selling of North America’s [I]ndigenous women and children for sexual purposes has been an ongoing practice since the colonial era. There is evidence that early British surveyors and settlers viewed Native women’s sexual and reproductive freedom as proof of their ‘innate’ impurity, and that many assumed the right to kidnap, rape, and prostitute Native women and girls without consequence” (Pierce, A. and Koepplinger, S. (2011). New language, old problem: Sex trafficking of American Indian women and children. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved from: http://www.vawnet.org). This brief explores the problem providing definitions and background and suggests ways of identifying and supporting victims as well as suggesting actions that the native communities can do but we can adapt for our own communities. http://www.ncai.org/policy-research-center/research-data/prc-publications/TraffickingBrief.pdf
Another resource I discovered is The Human Trafficking Search website which lists practical actions for you and your congregation: http://www.humantraffickingsearch.net/take-action/ With the season of Christmas shopping upon us, here are some things from that site that you might consider as you shop:
- Demand Slave-Free Goods:Even if you never come face-to-face with a slave, your shirt may very well have been sewn by one. Be an informed consumer who refuses to directly or indirectly exploit others. Be willing to change your habits of consumption to better reflect your values even if this requires a slight increase in the cost for a product or service. Listed are some resources to aid you in making conscientious choices about what you are buying:
- My Slavery Footprint: Similar to your Ecological footprint, the Slavery Footprint allows you to measure the extent to which your consumption is connected to slavery and trafficking.
- FairtradeUSA: Fair Trade mitigates the use of trafficking through fair business practices and certification of goods so you know that what you are buying is just that—Fair.
- Free2Work: Provides reports on products and rankings of companies based on their relation to trafficking. Reports span various industries.
- Products of Slavery: An interactive website that shows where and what products are produced using child labor or forced labor.
- GoodWeave: Works to end child labor in the carpet industry by assessing and certifying fair practices. GoodWeave also produces rugs and provides education and opportunities to formerly trafficked and at-risk children.
- Purchase from businesses that work with or are run by Former Trafficked Persons: In addition to making purchases that are slavery-free, former trafficked persons have also started numerous business to support themselves and to support the anti-trafficking movement. Purchasing items made by these individuals will allow them to rebuild their lives and further support the anti-trafficking movement. One example is Sari Bari, which provides employment opportunities for formerly exploited women.
This resolution is specifically targeting the Native American but we can’t overlook the problems in our own communities. In June, 2016, the Detroit Free Press reported: “The FBI in Michigan worked 220 sex trafficking, or forced prostitution, cases last year. Michigan cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center — there were 62 through the first three months of 2016 — have increased each year since 2012. Law enforcement officials said it’s likely most prostitutes are forced” (http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/06/02/sex-trafficking-michigan-ireland/85290032/). The article reminds us that we can help put a stop to this by encouraging public awareness and by being attentive. Here’s another great “if you see something, say something” opportunity. Please take the time to read the Free Press article.
And one more resource from the National Catholic Reporter – http://globalsistersreport.org/news/trafficking/human-trafficking-us-sisters-networks-and-ministries-break-cycle-one-life-time
As we give thanks this weekend, let us remember those for whom thanksgiving is a dream of better lives and the freedom to truly live.
Let us pray –
O GOD, our words cannot express
what our minds can barely comprehend and our hearts
feel when we hear of children and adults deceived
and transported to unknown places for purposes of
sexual exploitation and forced labor because of human greed.
Our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that
their dignity and rights are being transgressed through
threats, deception and force. We cry out against the
degrading practice of trafficking and pray for it to
Strengthen the fragile-spirited and broken-hearted.
Make real your promises to fill these our sisters and
brothers with a love that is tender and good and send
the exploiters away empty-handed.
Give us the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with them,
that together we will find ways to the
freedom that is your gift to all of us. Amen.
The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee