Current Projects

Current Projects

Indigenous Voices Rising

Indigenous Voices Rising is a community-based, Indigenous-led research project that was created in response to the urgent call from Native American elders, advocates and crisis responders for more information that can be used to prevent sex trafficking of Indigenous persons. The four-year project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice.

Contact us:

National Resources:
National Human Trafficking Hotline
1-888-373-7888 |
1-844-762-8483 |

Indigenous Voices Rising

Study Details

  1. Identify the ways in which Native Americans are recruited, groomed and coerced into sex trafficking situations.
  2. Elucidate the ways in which Native American survivors of sex trafficking are identified by professionals (e.g., law enforcement, doctors, advocates).
  3. Document the role community members (i.e., bystanders) play in preventing and responding to sex trafficking among Native Americans.

Key elements:
  • Strengths-based: The project strives to go beyond just researching the “problem” and the perpetuation of a deficit perspective.
  • Inclusive and participatory: Native American women and Indigenous peoples are not treated as a cause, hashtag, an issue or research population to be studied. Rather, their wisdom and knowledge will guide all aspects of this research project.
  • Community partnership: Elders, respected members of each community, activists who do the work and survivors meet with the research staff regularly to educate and direct all activities and decision.
  • Student engagement: Native American students will be highly engaged in this work. This opportunity will allow students to learn about conducting community-based participatory action research and potentially inspire them to pursue graduate school in research-related disciplines, areas in which Native American individuals are gravely underrepresented.
  • Dissemination and action: Findings will be shared — with Tribal approval — to diverse audiences across the U.S. to inform sex trafficking prevention programs and policies.
  • Talking circles and on-on-one interviews.
  • University, Tribal and Indian Health Service Institutional Review Board approvals.
  • Tribes’ own data.
  • Training component for Native students.

Research questions:
1. How are Indigenous persons forced into sex trafficking, and how do they escape?

The IVR team will listen to the Indigenous women, two spirit (and all trans/gender diverse individuals) and male survivors of sex trafficking to understand their experiences. Through understanding how one’s trafficking experience began and what happened during that experience, we will have better information about what we can do to prevent sex trafficking and help those in sex trafficking situations escape/exit safely.

2. How can law enforcement, hospitals and other frontline responders recognize victims?

The IVR team wants to know how law enforcement, health care providers, advocates and other professionals currently understand sex trafficking. Do they recognize victims when they are arrested or come into the emergency room? If so, how do they recognize them? If not, why not? This can help develop training for frontline responders to better assist survivors and help people exit trafficking earlier.

3. How can community members identify and support victims?

The IVR team wants to learn how community members can help prevent sex trafficking. What opportunities do they have to intervene in trafficking, or while someone is being recruited or following recruitment? Do they recognize red flags? If they don’t, why not? If they recognize risk for trafficking, do they act? If not, why? By understanding this, we can help community members recognize sex trafficking and act to prevent it.


Indigenous Voices Rising collaborators include Native American elders, survivors, advocates, community stakeholders and students across the Northern Great Plains and a team of researchers from:

Human trafficking is a growing problem affecting Indigenous women and children in our communities. Together, we need to find solutions and we need to find them now.

Preciouse Trujillo (SicanguLakota), Indigenous Voices Rising project coordinator

We are honored to be a part of this grant because it will give us the opportunity to address this long-standing public health crisis, raise awareness and provide answers and proactive solutions for our Indigenous communities in the Great Plains.

Trisha Etringer (HoChunk/Pima/Meskwaki/Ojibwe), Great Plains Action Society

Current research on human trafficking does not consider cultural factors in what creates patterns of vulnerabilities. Without this information, we cannot design effective prevention and response efforts.

Bridget Diamond-Welch, Director, Research & Innovation, School of Health Sciences, University of South Dakota