Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Tribes across Indian Country are seeing their people and their communities devastated by meth production, use and distribution. Methamphetamine, or meth, has taken hold on reservations across Indian Country. The drug, typically imported from Mexico but sometimes produced in labs on tribal lands, has contributed to already-high crime rates, torn apart families and put a strain underfunded law enforcement, health and social service programs.

According to one law enforcement official, the Navajo Nation has experienced a more than 100 percent increase in methamphetamine use in the last five years, and the FBI estimates that up to 40 percent of violent criminal cases on the Nation involve methamphetamine.

On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, a Reservation specifically targeted by Mexican methamphetamine cartels, criminal charges for drug possession increased 353 percent, assaults tripled, theft doubled, and child abuse increased by 85 percent.

Darrell Hillaire, the chairman of the Lummi Nation of Washington, reported similar problems. He said 41 percent of the 1,200 children born on the reservation in the last 10 years have been affected by drugs like meth.

Although tribal leaders have shared similar struggles with meth, their approach to dealing with the drug, and enforcement issues in general, differed. Many have said prevention should be the main focus in preventing people -- especially youth -- from abusing drugs.

"A lot of it is empowering our youth to come up with solutions of their own," said Brian Wallace, the chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

In Minnesota, the Red Lake Nation recently pulled out of a drug task force out of fear its sovereignty was being encroached, said chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. Coupled with comments in The New York Times story that accused him of hindering drug investigations, Jourdain said he is being viewed as "anti-enforcement" and "difficult."

"These collaborations, these task forces, have to be approached very carefully," he said, citing an example of an attempt to enforce state law on tribal lands. Although Minnesota is a Public Law 280 state, Red Lake does not fall under the act so the state has no criminal or civil jurisdiction there.

But other tribal leaders dismissed those kinds of concerns. Dennis Smith, the vice chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada and Idaho, said tribes need all the help they can get to fight meth. Smith said it was unrealistic for tribes to engage in battle alone or rely on the federal government. "The Bureau of Indian Affairs doesn't have the manpower and will never work," he warned. So developing partnerships with local and state governments is a sensible solution, he said.

In the spirit of Indians healing Indians, a recnet meth conference was inspired by a slogan and a solution taking a slightly different road than the mainstream efforts. “No war on drugs, let’s declare healing on meth. Resist, Reach Out, Recover,” said a banner and a tee shirt prominent at the conference.

No War on drugs? Why not? Indian Country Today reported Don Coyhis (Mohican Nation), Founder and President of White Bison, Inc., explained that in the Indian way, to think of efforts against the effects of methamphetamine as a healing rather than war would bring our thinking more in line with how Native people relate to problems. To heal, rather than to make war, would rally the People’s efforts in a more effective manner.

“I talked to some Elders about four months ago,” he said, “and they were explaining to me how things work in the spiritual world. They said that when you declare war on something, each of those words gives an instruction. When you declare war on something, spiritually you actually call the enemy. When somebody pushes on your hand, it pushes back. The very thing you declare war on, you are destined to lose.”

He went on to explain that we must take back our power as Native people in the coming tsunami, the meth epidemic, which is here, now, and growing fast. He said, “Even though the dominant society is a war-declaring entity, we don’t do that. Not for this one. Not for our children. We declare healing. We must demonstrate the right way to solve problems. When something huge comes along that’s a threat to us, we provide healing. So when we arrest someone and they are incarcerated, we provide healing. We try to help them. We try to heal in that way. It’s within our power, its within our culture, its within the Elders’ teachings.”

The following comes from the Billings Gazette in Billings Montana.

Hundreds rally in opposition to reservation meth use

LAME DEER -- The war on meth marched through Lame Deer on Friday.

Several hundred people -- including small children in strollers, students carrying signs, and adults -- marched down Cheyenne Avenue in the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation's first large community event to combat methamphetamine use on the reservation.

The march led to a rally at the tribal headquarters, then continued to the school, where the afternoon included a feed and a series of speakers and entertainment.

"We have declared war on meth," Tribal President Eugene Little Coyote said to a round of applause and ululating. "But those are just words. We have now arrived at a time to turn our words into action."

Members of a community task force, spearheaded by the tribal health board, are the generals in the war, Little Coyote said. He called on the Tribal Council to target manufacturers and dealers.

Members of the community will have to work together to fight meth in their families, their towns and their tribe, he said. That will include speaking out when they need to and supporting law enforcement.

Request to join task force
Little Coyote said he expects to ask the Tribal Council next week to join a Cooperative Agency Task Force that is being created and includes law enforcement from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI and Colstrip. There is already a drug task force working, but this group will be another tool in the fight.

"There is strength in numbers to fight meth," Little Coyote said.

Shanaya Sandcrane, 12, was among the students who carried signs and marched. Shanaya said the rally had an effect.

"I think it should make a difference," she said. Meth "seems like it's had an effect on a lot of people here."

People should not use it, Shanaya said, "because there's nothing good coming out of it."

Don Shoulderblade, Keeper of the Sacred Hat, one of the tribe's convenants, said the hat has been with the Cheyenne people through all their battles.

"Today she's still with us in the battle with drug abuse," he said.

"Meth is a destroyer," he said. "It destroys lives, it destroys home, it destroys your health and, most of all, it destroys your spirit."

After his talk, Shoulderblade gave a prayer, partially spoken in English, and asked the creator, Maheo, to watch over the Cheyenne people and lead them on the right path.

"The meth that is tearing up our families, destroying our homes, take it away, Maheo," he prayed.

Several Tribal Council members encouraged residents to not only refuse to use methamphetamine, but to speak up when they know others are using.

A challenge not to use
Not using is a challenge, Lame Deer District council member Allen Fisher said.

"That's not easy when you have methamphetamine promotion out there," Fisher said.

And it takes bravery to speak out against others using the drug.

"Learn to ask for help," Fisher said. "Do not cover it up. Make some changes. Take a stance of nonuse."

Ashland District Councilman Joe Fox Jr. said the rally will take hold of those who attended, especially the many children in attendance.

"I truly believe the Cheyenne people have to heal each other, and this is a start," Fox said.

Birney District Councilwoman Alberta Fisher talked of children and adults who are afraid, hungry and having financial troubles.

"These are all the effects of meth, alcohol and drugs," she said.

Fisher said she has family and friends who use meth.

"We bury people, and they bring us many tears, they bring us many hardships," she said. "And yet we fail to go to the source of the problem and put them in jail.

"Let's get to the source of the problem, and that's the drug dealers. Prosecute them. Don't be afraid. They are the ones that are killing us."

Lame Deer District Councilman Jace Killsback said drug users have "no shame" and will smoke meth in public. Using the slang of his 20-something generation, Killsback said they "light a bulb in their car downtown."

People have to speak out -- just as they did at the march and rally -- when they see drugs being used or sold, Killsback said. A call to police is the first step, he said.

"Don't be afraid to call in if you see somebody all geeked out or that's dealing drugs," he said.

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