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.

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American Indian Governance and Its Impact on the U.S. Constitution

Benjamin Franklin's Albany plan to create an alliance of 13 colonies stemmed from recommendations from the Iroquois Confederacy.
Benjamin Franklin’s Albany plan to create an alliance of colonies stemmed from recommendations from the Iroquois Confederacy.

A little know piece of American history is something called the “Albany Plan,” a Benjamin Franklin-led proposal in 1754 to put the disparate colonies under a central government. It didn’t fly at the time, but it was an initial effort to create some form of union.

Even less well known than the Albany Plan is the fact that it was a leader from the Iroquois Confederacy (which had its own alliance) who recommended such a colonial collaboration to Franklin and others a decade earlier.

This is one example historians point to showing the impact Native American tribal governance had on the Founding Fathers and the framing of the U.S. Constitution. The good news is that the conversation is ongoing. For too long, the Native American contributions to American political thought have been largely hidden or ignored. For many of us, our formal education didn’t even hint at such things.

The latest contribution to this debate comes from Robert Miller (Eastern Shawnee), a Law Professor at at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He published a paper March 1 titled: American Indian Constitutions and Their Influence on the United States Constitution. It appeared in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. This very accessible paper looks at the impact of the Iroquois Confederacy on the Founding Fathers, then explores the impact the U.S. Constitution had on tribal efforts to create written constitutions.

Here are a few takeaways. Continue reading