Native American Opoid Overdoes in Minnesota and Native Responses; Suggested Weekend Readings

For more than a decade, our country has been facing a crisis involving the abuse of prescription pain killers and heroine. Opioid overdoses tripled nationally between 2000 and 2015. A recent hour-long Minnesota Native News radio program explores the devastating impacts this crisis has had on Native American communities. According to the summary:

In 2015, Minnesota had more American Indians dying from overdoses than any other state. That same year, well over half of pregnant Native women gave birth to babies with opioids in their systems. Many American Indians in Minnesota are wrestling with how best to help people heal from the addiction and the historical trauma at the root of this crisis.

But how do you talk about this incredibly painful problem without leaving people with a sense of hopelessness or by reinforcing the ugly stereotype of the “drunk Indian”? The program explores the unique nature of addiction in Native communities and how it is rooted in historical trauma.The bottom line is that a violent or chaotic childhood makes people more prone to opiod addiction

Reporter Melissa Townsend talks about western medical treatments to addiction, the preferred approach by government funders. But the story emphasizes that — from a Native perspective — addiction is a spirit that thrives on fear and chaos. The story explores the personal stories of Native peoples –the backstory to their addiction, the trauma they and their families experienced, and their individual paths to spiritual healing. It talks about the struggles to trying blend both western medical treatments, which are profit-driven and don’t address the underlying spiritual harms, and traditional Native approaches.

It’s a powerful story.

For other news stories — on the anniversary of the Battle of Greasy Grass, on a recent U.S. Supreme Court win for the Choctaw Nation, and on shocking genocidal quotes by early U.S. leaders, read on.

Battle of Greasy Grass by Red Horse (Lakota) who fought in the battle.
Battle of Greasy Grass by Red Horse (Lakota) who fought in the battle.

The Battle of Greasy Grass, the Lakota name for the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand, took place 140 years ago today. Red Horse, one of the Lakota fighters, also was a respected artist. He did a series of 42 ledger drawings to remember the battle and honor his fellow warriors. To get the story and see some of art, check out Indian Country Today’s article: The Battle of the Greasy Grass 140 Years Later: The Complete Story in 18 Drawings.

To paintings depict the battle start to finish. To see all 42, visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives.

Choctaw Get U.S. Supreme Court Win

Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is a long standing legal battle regarding the authority of tribal court over non-Indian businesses operating on reservations. This case illustrates how the idea of being a “sovereign dependent nation” works in Indian Country.

According to a story in Indian Country Today: The case involved a Dollar General Store operating on the Choctaw Indian Reservation. In 2003, a non-Indian manager was accused of sexually molesting a 13-year-old Native boy who worked there. The federal government has jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians on reservations and it chose not to prosecute. The boy’s parents sued both the store and the manager in civil court. The accused argued the tribal court had no jurisdiction.

The 5th District Court ruled the manager could not be sued but Dollar General could be sued since it had willing entered into a contract to do business on the reservation. The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the decision, 4-4. That means the lower court decision stands. (It is one of several deadlocked cases this year where the vote of the late Justice Antonin Scalia would have made the difference.) Since the decision was a tie, it does not set a Supreme Court precedent.

Quotes You Don’t Here About from Early U.S. Leaders:

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said the following in his autobiography: “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.”

That is one of several depressing quotes from U.S. leaders compiled in an Indian Country Today story titled: Nice Day for a Genocide: Shocking Quotes on Indians By U.S. Leaders, Pt 1. Click on the link for more.

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