While the opioid epidemic continues to claim lives across the country, today, our state leaders sat down to talk about its effect on Indian Country. Senator John Hoeven is the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Hoeven hosted a panel to better understand how the drug problem can be addressed.
Along with state leaders, tribal chairmen, representatives from the FBI, the DEA, and BIA all joined the panel to talk about how to stop drugs from entering Indian land. Like most federal issues, a key ingredient is money.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said that while the state’s drug task forces work well, they’re not enough. To increase staffing, they need more money from the federal government.
Wayne Stenehjem: “It’s not enough that we have the local and the state agencies working, we need additional assistance on the federal level. That includes involvement in our 10 narcotic task forces around the state from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
Senator John Hoeven says that exactly what he’s working on now in D.C.
Sen. John Hoeven: “Not only provide more funding like I talked about, $150 million through The Survive Act, but also through the Tribal Law Enforcement Act. We would expedite that process of getting background checks and training BIA law enforcement officers.”
I spoke with a councilwoman for the three affiliated tribes– who says more is needed than additional funding.
Judy Brugh; Three Affiliated Tribes Councilwoman: “I think there has to be more communication amongst the federal agencies with our tribes, across the whole US, not just ND, but everywhere.
While tribal relations with the state and the federal government have improved, now, it’s left to Congress to push through legislation that would prevent dangerous drugs from entering into Indian Country.
KX News asked Senator Hoeven what obstacles he faces when specifically addressing drug use on Indian land. He said it’s the same as addressing it anywhere else, just a couple more jurisdictions and entities to work alongside with.