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2018-08-30 / Voices

What To Make Of Abduction Claims

A VIEW FROM LAKOTA COUNTRY
BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
OGLALA LAKOTA

For the past several weeks, there has been a surge in Facebook postings from people in the local Native American community (and some outside) claiming that they have been stalked by groups of “Mexican men” at places like Walmart in Rapid City, large parking lots and even chased by vehicles on the road with license plates from out of state. I personally have been trying to make sense of them and sort through the accusations.

While working on the story we publish this week about the recent rash in postings claiming attempted abductions and stalking like behavior, I was presented with a number of perspectives on the matter that enlightened me about this material.

The first calls I made when researching this story was to the local law enforcement. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Department, nor the Rapid City Police Department, have zero official reports filed that fit the description of these posts. When I presented this finding to my own social media audience I received comments that spanned a multiple positions. Some people questioned the authenticity of the posts because for many, their first reaction would be to call the police for help.

While this may be true, others spoke about how it is very difficult for minority communities to rely on the police. Some people have warrants out for their arrest for crimes of poverty. These warrants are issued for people who cannot afford to pay their fines for crimes that are often petty in nature. These people are often unwilling to call the police for aid because they know that if they do, they too will end up in jail. This is a dilemma facing many victims of domestic violence.

I know for a fact that human trafficking is very real in all parts of America. I also recognize that our women are preyed upon at catastrophic rates. As a journalist, the posting is alarming. Are our people being targeted by human traffickers at large department stores in Rapid City? Or has this become a phenomenon driven by paranoia?

A couple of the stories that I have been able to personally verify did not happen recently nor did they include individuals of Mexican descent. In the instances that I researched the attempted abductors were Native American and Caucasian. That does not mean that any of the assertions that I was unable to investigate did not happen. Human trafficking is a real problem that has harmed countless victims around the world.

There are all kinds of things that can be done to protect yourself. You can document the situation with your smartphone, you can notify somebody/ anybody, and you can detail your itinerary with people you know and trust.

There is always some truth to these types of stories. Some of these posts probably are real and authentic. It is important as a news source however that we work hard to verify these instances in an effort at preventing a kidnapping. It is just as important that we sort through the facts we have and make a sensible decision on how to respond.

Brandon Ecoffey is the former editor of LCT and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Oglala Lakota nation.

Brandon Ecoffey is the former editor of LCT and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He is also the owner of Bad Face Consulting and a cohost on the Bad Face Consulting Podcast presented by Native Hope.

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