'Nobody saw me': why are so many Native American women and girls trafficked?
va was found at dusk in late December 2016, standing in an Albuquerque parking lot. The 15-year-old Navajo girl had been missing more than two weeks when her grandmother got a call from the Bernalillo county sheriff’s office – saying her silver Ford truck had been recovered.
“I don’t care about the truck, what about my granddaughter?” Heidi demanded.
She drove three hours, from her house outside Gallup, and arrived a few minutes after 1am to see Eva emerge from the juvenile holding area, quiet and hunched. Her cheeks and neck looked skeletal. She kept her answers short and rolled her eyes. A familiar pattern was unfolding.
Back in the car, Heidi locked the doors. Give me my phone, Eva said.
Eva was among the thousands of human trafficking victims targeted and exploited in the US every year, of whom only 10% are ever identified. In New Mexico, a mere 160 cases have been opened since 2016. But, while Native Americans make up about 11% of the state’s population, they account for nearly a quarter of trafficking victims, according to data compiled from service organizations.