Roundtable Discussion on Human Trafficking at Fort Berthold

The Bakken oil boom has brought economic prosperity to North Dakota.

However, it's also brought with it an increase in population, and with it, crime.

The Fort Berthold Reservation, which produces nearly a third of the state's oil, has seen crime, including human trafficking, quadruple since 2010.

"Our numbers have skyrocketed and exploded, four times the amount than when I first started in 2010. We're serving crazy numbers of victims," said Sadie Young Bird, Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence. "The crime has increased, the people have increased, we've had a lot of different problems."

To help come up with solutions, tribal leaders, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Cindy McCain, co-chair of the McCain Institute's Human Trafficking Advisory Council held a roundtable today in Parshall.

"There's a whole lot of people who care, a whole lot of people who are frustrated because they think about, how do we change this long term? And this will be a generational change. But we need to get services onto the reservation to assist victims," said Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

"Native Americans here are frustrated, they're begging for help. They're asking for attention on these issues," said Cindy McCain, Co-Chair of the McCain Institute's Human Trafficking Advisory Council.

In order to help ease the burden of an understaffed court system, the tribal court will soon employ 8 attorneys, where before, they only had one.

"I'm looking forward to it. It gives me renewed energy, renewed strength, courage and hopefulness for our judicial system," said Diane Johnson, MHA Nation Chief Judge.

Even with this progress, however, frustrations remain. The Coalition Against Violence says their victims don't qualify for Oil Impact Funds, despite having their data collected by the state.

"That is not right. That is like we're treated like second-class citizens. Something needs to change somewhere," said Sadie Young Bird.

And it needs to change quickly to help the 50-to-75 percent of 12-to-16 year old girls who are abused on the reservation, according to members of the roundtable.