This Earth Day, we reflect on how both human trafficking and environmental racism harm Indigenous communities, specifically women. We can see this intersection clearly in oil pipeline construction, such as Line 3, which is currently being built in Minnesota on Dakota Sioux and Ojibwe land.
Sexual violence, including sex trafficking, almost always increases in extractive zones such as pipeline construction sites due to man camps built nearby. These camps have been reported as very dangerous for Indigenous women due to the influx of outsiders coming into the community. Most of the camps are built within a few miles from Indigenous communities.
The environmental impact of Line 3 and all pipelines is extreme and causes irreversible ecological destruction. In the past, this has included massive oil spills and increased carbon emissions which impact air conditions. The pipelines also disrupt the way of life for Indigenous communities nearby and the land they live on. Specifically, Line 3 would violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe people and endanger the land where wild rice is grown, which is central to their culture.
Because of the intense physical, psychological, and environmental harm caused by pipelines, Indigenous communities are on the front lines fighting the construction. Fighting on the front lines can cause trauma, leading Indigenous people to be more vulnerable to sex trafficking and sexual violence.
We need to prioritize people over profit.
Trafficking nationwide already disproportionately affects Indegiounous women and two-spirit people, so the pipelines’ construction causes even more harm. One report found that 27 percent of the 95 Native women and girls interviewed reported activities constituting sex trafficking under Minnesota law. There is a large gap in studies and statistics on trafficking in Indegiounous communities, which needs to be addressed as well.
As we move forward, it is imperative that we focus on the intersection between human trafficking, climate justice, and Indigenous communities. Uplifting Indigenous trafficking survivors’ voices is the first step. We also must recognize and actively work against the systems that prioritize profits over people.