July 30, 2021– Ella Mae Begay has been missing nearly two months, with both law enforcement and family/community members looking for her, high and low, since her disappearance. She is a rug weaver, an artist whose traditional Navajo rugs have won her a lot of admiration. It is important to keep referring to her, in the present tense. An abducted or trafficked person should never be cast aside to the public’s opaque memory, as we learned when Elizabeth Smart was rescued, in March, 2003, nine months after her abduction. White women and girls, no less precious than anyone, nevertheless make up a far smaller percentage of the missing and exploited than do people of colour, especially Indigenous Americans.
The number of missing Native Americans is estimated at over 10,000-with 7,700 youth reported missing, as of 2018. Any such estimate is bound to be far lower than the actual number, with such factors as suspicion of outsiders among the families of the missing and family involvement in the disappearance, contributing to non-reporting. It is not just women who disappear, either. A young man, who I knew as a neighbour and student, in the 1990s, has been missing for over a year. His family continues to search and hold out hope-as they should. In the meantime, these families-especially the missing person’s children and spouses, live as if in a hollow shell.
Today is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, sponsored by the United Nations, whose own record in the matter has been spotty, in the past. That there is recognition of this issue, on a macrolevel, though, is huge progress. While the primary impetus for continued trafficking is easy money, the base for its widespread nature has been the sense that no one will really miss the abducted ones.
Everyone of conscience should miss them-and not give up searching, hounding the traffickers and demanding official action against “the Heads of the Snakes”, and finding as many of the victims as is humanly possible. A large organization, dedicated to this very achievement, is Shared Hope International. I urge those who are sincerely concerned about this issue to support Shared Hope, and any local organization which takes children off the street or otherwise points them towards a life away from exploitation.