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Today I ran through north Minneapolis, the ‘hood. The middle of January, the weather a balmy 45, my heart stocked with joy like a fishery plump with walleye. As I ran I thought what a gift the warm weather had been, what a tremendous lift in my mood it created, how much weather impacts the mood and therefore the culture of that area, and boom-my foot landed, pivoted on sand, jarring my thoughts.

What about those negatively impacted by the warm weather and paucity of snow, I wondered. Who would they be? Snow blower salespeople. City plows. Snow shoveling businesses. The teens who shovel snow for a few bucks in north Minneapolis. And then I flashed to the Native prostituted women four other women and I interviewed over the past few years and the horrific stories they told us, beginning generations ago, often in boarding schools. Many of them relate the abuses of their lives with genocide. Now, in 2012, a number of the women shovel snow for $5 so that they can eat at McDonald’s. My foot scraped along the cement and my heart thudded and my whole entire psyche dropped like a gate had opened, flooding my heart with sadness. The high rates of homelessness in a land that was theirs for thousands of years. The sexual abuse suffered at age three and four, often by white foster parents; the abuse introduced into their families by boarding schools. The women need the snow. They don’t have to suck dick for $5 if they can shovel a walk instead.

The thudding pain and grief for these women turned into instantaneous survivor guilt because I was enjoying the above average temperature day while they suffered. I know I don’t have to feel this way, but it happens, like a switch in my head. I ran on. Cedar fences towering over my head–separating, dividing, protecting, holding stories. A few more minutes and I crossed a bridge that arches over a park, the downtown Minneapolis skyline jutting upward to my left and the Glenwood water distillery to my right.
Once I hit the upper middle class neighborhood of Bryn Mawr the fences disappeared. There’s little need for them here, apparently. No glock carrying teenage boys sprinting through yards at 2 am with rookie cops chasing after them. No random pop pop firework-like shots producing bullets that travel through an alley, into a second story closet where a three-year-old boy is hiding from the sound of gunshots, one of which will end his life when it pierces the base of his skull. No women turned out on street corners; their eyes dark, glossy, vacated.

But even here, in quiet, upscale Bryn Mawr, there are remnants of racism, colonization, genocide. Two summers ago, a Native homeless woman, just turned eighteen, was found murdered. Her body dumped on the other side of a fence that separates Byrn Mawr from the freeway. A line or two appeared in the newspaper about her body, sprawled out in the tall grasses. There was grief in the Native community. Silence elsewhere. Her life, thrown away. My Adidas spun on the sidewalk, crunching sand as I ran back toward north Minneapolis, grieving this woman I did not know, her life and death not even a blip to the people who live where she was dumped.

Fences or no fences, we do not escape trauma. It is all around us, whether we connect with it or not. What we know from research: around 90% of prostituted women want out immediately. Help tear down those fences.


  1. It’s stories like these that bring the reality of this heavy topic to those of us who do not see it ourselves. Just because we don’t see it does not mean it’s not there.

  2. The memories of trafficking of Native Women is far from “history”. I was hanging with a good friend when the conversation turned to trafficking… my guest began to tell how she had been on the boats and the fear of potential violence. Trafficked ikwe are invisible and not important enough in our culture to be acknowledged but that doesn’t mean we can’t rise up. Thank you for your tireless commitment to the cause. You have saved many lives.

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