When President Biden proclaimed May 5 Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, he underscored a commitment to “working with Tribal nations and Native communities to achieve justice and healing.” Asserting the importance of victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally appropriate solutions, the President noted that Native peoples “know best what their communities need to feel safe.”
OJJDP efforts in Indian country follow this approach, providing funds to support programs that espouse Native values and respect Tribal traditions. The Seed Sisters—Strong Roots Series, a podcast series by OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center, is one of the latest examples, as it emphasizes how strong ties to family and community foster youth safety.
“For far too long, justice for Indigenous communities has been elusive. We must improve our investigations to resolve missing or murdered cases while supporting victims and their families.”
—President Joseph Biden
The Seed Sisters—Strong Roots Series focuses on Native youth who go missing, run away, or become victims of sex trafficking or human trafficking. Episodes emphasize the importance of building partnerships within Native communities—relationships that can ensure there are safe spaces and caring adults available for youth who experience mental, physical, or sexual abuse and may be at higher risk of running away or victimization. The center released the first podcast in September.
With the podcast series, the center seeks to support Tribal communities as they develop their own culturally relevant strategies for addressing conditions that put youth at risk, center Codirector Stephanie Autumn explained. Two themes weave through the podcasts—prevention and intervention—with presenters emphasizing Native practices that support youth and families as they strengthen their relationships and form “another circle of protective adults” in the community. Young people with strong family and Tribal community connections can be “less likely to run away, to become the missing and murdered, to be sex trafficked and human trafficked, as the community itself becomes the protective factor and safety net from harm,” Ms. Autumn said.
The first podcast seeks to encourage and support families with missing children and to identify resources that can help them through the crisis. It “humanizes the issues” as it helps families identify their strengths and encourages them to work with Tribal and state resources, Ms. Autumn said. Themes for subsequent episodes include the protective roles Indigenous mothers, grandmothers, and other maternal figures have traditionally played in Tribal communities, and their positive impact on youth, their relationships, and safety. Native people with lived experience of running away will discuss their participation in movements for Indigenous rights, and how those experiences helped shape them into leaders who returned home to serve their Tribes. Another episode will examine how participation in Indigenous cultural arts can be a protective factor for youth, strengthening ties to home and to their Tribes.
The Tribal Youth Resource Center’s podcasts can be accessed via the center’s website. Topics addressed in previous TYRC podcast series have included Tribal partnerships with schools, using mentorship to promote health and wellness, and considerations for Tribes and Tribal programs when writing grant proposals and implementing grant programs.
OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center and The Resource Basket provide training and technical assistance to OJJDP Tribal grantees.