United Tribes News Speech Archives
April 5, 2006
Karrie Azure, Tribal Judge
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Belcourt, North Dakota
United States Senate Indian Affairs Committee
Thank you very much Mr. Vice Chairman (Byron Dorgan, North Dakota). It is a great honor to be testifying before this committee today on a most pressing issue in Indian Country. As stated, I am a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and appear today on behalf of United Tribes Technical College's Intertribal Justice Program.
United Tribes received a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant in September 2004 under the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program. The grant is administered through United Tribes but the intended area of service is comprised of the four major reservations in North Dakota. The purpose of the grant is to create an Intertribal Task Force. The intention is that through cooperation amongst agencies at the tribal, state and federal levels, a sensible solution to the methamphetamine epidemic will be created. What is unique about this Task Force is that it is comprised of a consortium of tribes, something that can prove often difficult within Indian Country. Mr. Vice Chairman, I am pleased to report that the collaboration amongst the four tribes remains key to the success of our Intertribal Task Force.
As strongly stated already by tribal leaders and officials in addressing the methamphetamine problem, it is unrealistic for tribes to engage in a battle against substance abuse alone; developing partnerships with local, state and federal governments is necessary. In that vein, United Tribes' "borderless" strategy to combat substance abuse is in line with the objectives of the National Congress of American Indians: urging tribes to develop laws and policies to combat methamphetamine abuse and drug trafficking, seeking tribal partnerships with the White House and requesting Congressional hearings to address the issue. It is important to note that attending this hearing today constitutes the accomplishment of one of those objectives.
Mr. Vice Chairman, I would like to bring your attention to what is occurring within the U.S. Attorneys Office, particularly the efforts of Mr. Thomas Heffelfinger. In October, 2005 a task force of U.S. Attorneys from throughout Indian Country met with Tribal leaders, including representatives of our United Tribes Task Force. Mr. Heffelfinger indicated that the task force he has created will employ strategies similar to those of our grant at United Tribes. The plan will encourage U.S. Attorneys in Indian Country districts to work closely with Tribal leaders, and tribal, local, state and federal law enforcement personnel, to ensure that law enforcement actions against methamphetamine manufacture, distribution and use in Indian country are carried out in a comprehensive manner that recognizes the needs of the various jurisdictions involved and most importantly, that addresses the law enforcement and safety needs of the citizens of Tribal Nations within Indian Country. We believe this effort is an important step forward in combating methamphetamine use in Indian country.
Mr. Vice Chairman, efforts at combating the methamphetamine problem in Indian Country continue under the guidance of the Intertribal Task Force in North Dakota. From meetings conducted thus far under the grant, United Tribes has identified key findings amongst tribal populations within the state:
- Approximately 90% of individuals entering treatment programs at Turtle Mountain are methamphetamine related
- There is a low recovery rate of methamphetamine addicts, approximately 3%, due to the fact that the treatment length is not long enough
- Indian Health Service is not "coding", that is tracking, methamphetamine use so data is unreliable; there is currently no concrete data available
- Methamphetamine dealers are traveling from reservation to reservation
- Juveniles are being used as dealers and pushers because of lesser sanctions against juveniles
- House explosions are occurring on reservations because of methamphetamine labs
- For those reservation communities that have resident treatment facilities, there is a lack of bed space for new patients
- There are no treatment facilities within the state for juveniles, and the only long term treatment facility for adults is at the State Penitentiary
- Treatment time is not long enough for methamphetamine addicts; twenty-eight (28) days is not enough time, oftentimes the need for recovery for methamphetamine addicts is six (6) months or longer
- Lack of law enforcement: there is not enough funding to address the need on many reservations and due to recent budget cuts, the Turtle Mountain reservation will lose its drug investigators, Spirit Lake will lose a police officer when it currently has only one (1) officer on duty per shift
- There is a dramatic increase in the number of babies being born affected by methamphetamine
- Information is not being shared with community; we need to educate the tribal community so members know what is going on with methamphetamine
- Drug testing is not being done at all levels of employment in tribal community
A brief side note, as you might be aware, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians recently passed, unanimously, by the tribal council, an Exclusion and Removal Ordinance. This ordinance has been at the forefront of the tribal chairman's agenda since July 2005 and was instituted to deter malicious violations on the reservation. The resolution applies to any individual who violates the peace, welfare and happiness of the tribal membership through illegal drug activity. This activity is another example of the work being done at the grassroots level to combat the methamphetamine epidemic.
Through the listing of preliminary findings, the implementation of United Tribes Technical College's grant is a proactive and positive step toward eradicating the methamphetamine problem in Indian Country. Through collaboration and cooperation between all levels of government and continued support of grant programs that provide the opportunity to open the lines of communication between those levels of government, workable solutions will be identified and implemented to ensure the prosperity of future generations of Indian people.
Mr. Vice Chairman, thank you for allowing me to testify today. I look forward to answering any questions the Committee may have.