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The Importance of Representation in Raising Awareness

Back in July, the vibrant landscapes of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. served as the backdrop for a photoshoot that will expand the representation of Native Americans and help people understand the risks they face regarding human trafficking.

Michelle Reed poses in powwow regalia.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Center for Human Trafficking (CCHT) Blue Campaign helps the public, law enforcement officers, and other industry partners understand how to recognize the signs of human trafficking — and how to report possible cases. Blue Campaign aims to reach populations that are at greater risk of trafficking, and tribal communities fit that profile. American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately affected by human trafficking due to Native women experiencing high rates of physical and sexual violence, the effects of historical trauma in these communities and populations, and the complexity of jurisdictional law enforcement issues in Indian county.

To help spread awareness of this reality, DCG helped Blue Campaign capture a new suite of images for their library, of Native Americans of all ages, genders, and tribes. Members of the Lumbee, Ojibwe, and Navajo posed for images in both traditional and everyday clothing, along with symbolic items representing tribal nations. The diversity of the images reflects the unique characteristics of each tribe and its members.

Photographer Elliot O’Donovan captures images in studio.

These photos will be used across Blue Campaign social media, paid media, resources, presentations, and more, as well as shared across DHS to increase awareness and representation within a high-risk population. DCG will also assist in creating a new, free poster series in 2024 for Native communities, to raise awareness about human trafficking and encourage reporting. Through the development process, Blue Campaign will consult with subject matter experts and the tribal community to ensure culturally sensitive and relevant messaging is being used.

The Importance of Representation in Raising Awareness was originally published in DCG Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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