International Bridge Walk Against Human Trafficking

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PACT Nookimis Grandmothers. International Bridge Walk Against Human Trafficking on Saturday, Oct.1st,2016.

Human trafficking, sexploitation, along northern corridors is real. It’s dangerous and dirty, chocking on abuse and trauma. Human trafficking has sucked the life out of many young women, girls, boys, especially from northern first nation communities. The invasive toxicity that found root in the greed & dehumanization in organized crime, seeks to snatch unsuspecting young people, fill them with a wretched concoction of drugs, and throw them to the wolves.

It’s not a pretty subject.  It is, however a subject  of paramount importance.

Layout 1It is so frightening and dangerous an issue that one would wonder how to even begin to cast light into dark corners where human trafficking lives.  PACT (Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking in Humans) Nookimis Grandmothers are seeking to do just that.

Human  trafficking, is the subject of an upcoming walk across The International Bridge. Starting at 8:00 am, Saturday, Oct. 1st, on Lake Superior State University (LSSU) grounds, Sault Michigan, the first ever ‘International Bridge Walk on Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking’, led by PACT Nookimis Grandmothers, will take place through ceremony and purposeful action.

The walk is approximately 8 kilometers long, leaving from LSSU (Parking Lot A North) moving to The Friendship Centre (East St.), Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

pactgrandmothersnookimisthunderbirdwomanRain or shine, PACT Grandmothers, and a gathering of people from First Nation communities along the north shore(s), several community agencies, and like minded individuals, from both sides of the (international) border will take intentional footsteps against human trafficking and sexploitation. PACT (Persons Against the Crimes of Trafficking in Humans) is a non-profit organization based in Ottawa, Ontario.

“PACT Grandmothers began with ‘Project Northern Outreach’, an off-shoot of PACT Ottawa’s human trafficking awareness initiative. The focus on outreach in Manitoulin Island and the North Shore came from a relationship between Ojibwe Grandmother & Elder, Isabelle Meawasige, Serpent River FN, and PACT Ottawa co-founder Sheila Smith.” shared Marly Day-Bateman, PACT Grandmother.

“This is our first public event. About a month ago, we met with the (Sault Ste. Marie) City Police at the Resource Centre on Gore Street. Different organizations were there as well, and we shared who we were, and what we are doing. Chief Keetch was very interested. Our purpose is to educate.” said Marly Day-Bateman. “When we met with the Chief of Police at the Resource Centre (Gore St.), he was very receptive to our work, and encouraged us to do more presentations on human trafficking. Going to schools and educating our children.”

‘Project Northern Outreach supported a circle of Anishinaabe Grandmothers to form an action alliance designed to understand the nature of trafficking in their communities, and prevent human trafficking through advocacy, education of cultural teachings and healing practices. An Anishinaabe worldview respects Grandmothers as authorities, educators and keepers of their cultural and foundational laws. Project Northern Outreach convened 3 gatherings of 12 respected grandmothers from the areas of Sault St Marie, Thessalon, and Manitoulin Island.'(pactottawa www.pact-ottawa.org)

The PACT Nookimis Grandmothers have undertaken extensive training through PACT Ottawa. They utilize  modules, and incorporate  traditional Anishinaabe teachings to guide them in their work.

“PACT Grandmothers have an Eagle Staff. We bring it with us wherever we go.” said Day-Bateman. “Our Eagle Staff Carrier is Alison Recollet-Simon.”

“There is an alarming rate of our girls  being swept into human trafficking. There are so many of our youth that have gotten lost. And it’s happening here, in our northern communities.”

20160916_191940A 2011 report co-written by Christine Stark, ‘Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota’, was the result of research she was undertaking while completing a Masters Degree, Social Work, at The University of Minnesota. While conducting research, Stark and interviewers, were hearing anecdotal evidence through stories being shared by  participants (in the research), that Thunder Bay, Ontario, specifically the Port area, was a smuggling route for first nations women, girls and boys, being sold onto Freighters, heading to the port at Duluth, Minnesota.

In an interview (2013) with CBC Thunder Bay, (www.cbc.ca) Christine Stark said the port at Duluth is notorious among First Nations people as a site for trafficking women. “The women and children — and I’ve even had women talk about a couple of babies brought onto the ships and sold to the men on ships — are being sold or are exchanging sex for alcohol, a place to stay, drugs, money and so forth.,” Stark said. “It’s quite shocking.”  Stark further said, “The sex trade on ships has been going on for generations, and includes Indigenous women from Canada.” Through her independent research and work with the Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Centre, Stark interviewed hundreds of Native women who have been through the trauma of the Lake Superior sex trade. The stories she’s compiled are evidence of an underground industry that’s thriving on the suffering of First Nations women.

pactgrandmothersmarlyday7“Not everyone reports a person as ‘gone missing’.”  said Day-Bateman.  “For example, in urban centres like Winnipeg or Thunder Bay it may not immediately be known that a person is missing. It could be quite some time, from when a person has gone missing, to when they are reported as missing.”

Issues of poverty, transiency, mental health and fractured families contributes to a dynamic where a person can be swept into the dark hole of human trafficking, and that information not readily be known.

“They’ll be shot full of drugs and never heard from again.” said Day-Bateman. “We have a ring (human trafficking) right here in Sault Ste. Marie, and they are getting a hold of our young first nations girls. They get them on drugs. And once they are on the drugs, they put them out there. People that are in this (human traffickers), are continuously moving them. They are always moving them around from place to place.” she said.

The PACT Grandmothers have made presentations far and wide. Marly spoke to the Grandmothers and Grandfathers Council at The Great Lakes Gathering, in July 2016. The Great Lakes Gathering took place at Ojibway Park, near Garden River, Ontario, and was undertaken to discern, through ceremonies and dialogue, the issue of water justice.

“We (PACT Nookimis Grandmothers) hold sacred bundles, and we use them when we get together. This is part of a traditional way for us to come together and pray for our progress; for the work that we do. Some of our grandmothers are pipe carriers. It’s coming from a spiritual aspect when we get together.” said Day-Bateman.

“We have different agencies that we know are planning to go on the walk.  We have to be educated on human trafficking.”

PACT Grandmothers were originally funded by PACT Ottawa, however, the funding for Project Northern Outreach ran it’s course, and they no longer receive funding from PACT.

“We’re doing this work because it is the right thing to do.” said Day-Bateman.

pactgrandmothersmarlyday4Marly Day-Bateman is also a trained facilitator in childhood trauma, travelling to Anchorage Alaska for the course studies. She is a teacher in Ceremonies, and traditional Anishinaabe ways, working especially with youth.

Several guest speakers are lined up, PACT Ottawa co-founder Sheila Smith among them. Serpent River First Nation Artist and Writer, Isaac Murdoch is confirmed and an original image, created by Murdoch, ‘Thunder Bird Woman’ will be used to lead the walk.

The PACT Grandmothers & walkers who join them will have support from local policing services.

If you would like to learn more about the 1st ever PACT Nookimis Grandmothers International Bridge Walk for Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking, visit: PACT (Nookimis) Grandmothers :Facebook page here

To  register for Saturday, October 1st walk Contact Eshkibok, 705-575-3374, Marly Day, 705-971-3146, or Keinna Masta, 906-259-0085. Deadline is Friday noon.

“This is important work. We are getting back our bundles and that is sacred work… Our men forgot their roles to protect and to provide. We must also include our men in this work.” Genny Jacko, Anishnaabe Grandmother. (www.pact-ottawa.org)

‘Human trafficking’ is defined as ‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, coercion, deception, repeated provision of a controlled substance) for an illegal purpose, including sexual exploitation or forced labour.

According to the Ontario government, ‘Of Ontario’s reported cases of human trafficking, about 70 per cent are for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and the majority of survivors are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Individuals who are most vulnerable as targets for human trafficking include Indigenous people, young women, at-risk youth, youth in care, migrant workers, and persons with mental health and addiction issues.

In many cases of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, trafficked persons may develop “trauma bonds” with their traffickers, and may not view themselves as victims. As such, human trafficking is believed to be a vastly underreported crime.’ (news.ontario.ca)