Drug issues on reservations

A recent television news report highlights drug issues on the Lummi Reservation in Washington state.

According to the report, drug abuse and crimes are rising on Indian reservations near Washington’s Canadian border. Dealers exploit the gaps in criminal jurisdiction between tribal, state and federal authorities. But the tribes are fighting the tide of drug addiction claiming their youth. In the process, they’re trying to undo trauma that traces back to first contact.

The Lummi Nation built the Se>Eye>Chen, a transitional youth home that gives shelter, counseling, and drug treatment for kids in flux between their families and foster care. The Lummis built Se>Eye>Chen after realizing they’d spent too much money sending kids off the rez to get help. .”

Darrell Hillaire is the academy’s program director. He used to be Lummi tribal chairman. He said drug abuse is a generational problem that’s forced many into the foster care system. He says: “One hundred percent of kids that have ended up in the system end up there because there’s drug and alcohol related problems in the home. It’s pretty astounding.”

According to the report, the drug dealers on the reservation aren’t all outsiders. But it’s hard to send people to jail in a community where nearly everyone is somebody’s cousin. The drug problem got so bad the Lummi turned to their treaty to find traditional tribal justice. Drug dealers became known as enemies of the people who could be banished from the Lummi Nation. Banishment means you lose all tribal rights. You can’t even step onto the rez.

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