Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Surge in Fentanyl Laced Heroin Threatens Responders

CNRB suits are recommended in
crime scenes involving fentanyl exposure
(US Navy photo)

As prescription drugs have become harder to obtain and harder to get a high from, opioid addicts have been turning to heroin, both in Indian Country and throughout the nation. This demand has inspired Mexican cartels and other drug traffickers to start cutting the heroin they distribute with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a legal, but very dangerous drug that has legitimate use as a painkilling analgesic. It's 80-100 times more potent than morphine, and as little as 0.7 nanograms (one billionth of a gram) is enough to cause death in a user, especially combined with other drugs. The potency of the drug seems like a boon to manufacturers, but in reality, it's difficult to reduce pure fentanyl to levels safe for ingestion. The DEA, who recently issued an urgent warning about fentanyl and fentanyl analogues,  estimated a single seizure of 5800 grams of fentanyl prevented some 46 million doses from hitting the street.
The upper threshold for lethal exposure is 2 milligrams, and can be absorbed by the skin, in the air, in food or in water. In general, only laboratory testing can establish the presence of fentanyl in heroin, making it even more dangerous for law enforcement responding to a crime scene.

The CDC recommends a minimum of coveralls, boots and gloves when responding to an area where the concentration of fentanyl is known to be below the level of acceptable exposure, which is listed as "undetermined."  The CDC additionally recommends that responders wear full protective gear, including respirators and suits rated for chemical exposure, if the level of fentanyl contamination is unknown.

Tribal law enforcement faces a difficult balance of continuing to respond to emergency calls involving heroin use, distribution, and overdoses, and maintaining a safe distance until officer safety can be established. Police departments should stay on top of trends and note spiking trends in overdoses, which may indicate the presence of fentanyl in the supply chain. If the presence of fentanyl is suspected at a crime scene, serious precautions should be taken in investigating the area, collecting and transporting the evidence, decontaminating officers, victims and remains, and in testing the evidence.

The remedy for exposure to a toxic level of fentanyl is intravenous administration of naloxone. Just as some police departments are making naloxone kids part of standard issue equipment, the Blood Tribe of Canada is training tribal members to administer naloxone, as part of an effort to stem an epidemic of overdoses from fentanyl-laced drugs.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

George Sword: First Native Police Captain

Captain George Sword, center
Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
The Oglala Lakota Sioux akicita society traditionally enforced the law, ensured the security of the tribe, and captured wrongdoers. During the early reservation days, the akicita earned the respect of the Indian Agents and continued to do their duty as regards to tribal members. They were so effective, the Agency wanted to recruit the akicitas as tribal police but many tribal members opposed oversight from the government.

It may have been an issue of jurisdiction that inspired many akicitas to overcome their distrust of the government and sign up with the tribal police. Horse thieves from outside the tribe were preying on the Lakota horses, and without jurisdiction, there was nothing the akicitas could do. After hundreds of horses were lost in 1879, dozens of men signed up for the police. George Sword, also known as Man Who Carries the Sword, ably led the police for thirteen years, before retiring and becoming a tribal judge. Sword served his tribe as a medicine man, holy man, camp administrator and war leader. He felt his work as police captain continued this work, helping his people transition to the new era.

As head of the Pine Ridge Indian police, Captain Sword commanded 49 men, including many recruits from outside the tribe and maintained his traditional appearance and duties while serving.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Native Values Matter with Community Policing

Julia Wades in Water and Police Chief Wades in Water
Montana State University Library, Special Collections 
Whether or not it's the buzzword of the day, many tribes traditionally practiced some form of community policing. A society or clan might have special enforcement or judicial privileges, but other members of a community would help set the norms, identify negative behavior, and help to find solutions when asked.

Julia Wades in Water, of the Blackfeet Nation, was hired as a policewoman in 1905 by her husband, Police Chief Wades in Water. The couple took their roles as elders and protectors of Blackfeet tradition very seriously. Wades in the Water was a member of the traditional Crazy Dog Society, which according to Blackfeet historian Curly Bear Wagner, were once the sole "police force" and remained a "very important organization."

As the first Native female police officer in the nation, Julia Wades in Water served her community for 25 years, managing the detention facility and assisting with female suspects. While her husband pioneered diversion tactics like making "troublemakers" provide restitution and do community service, Julia sustained many warm friendships among the Blackfeet and the non-Native people of northern Montana.  This pioneering law enforcement couple were deeply invested in maintaining the values and safety of their community, and Blackfeet of that era remember them warmly for all their contributions. 

We like to focus on the great partnerships that support community safety for a reason; successful partnerships (with top level buy in) represent the investment a community is making to turn things around for itself. Just like in the old days.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

For Sam, From All His Relations

His “contemporary traditional Indian art” is iconic, showing people who grow like trees from their deep roots into the stars; people who are proud, strong, protective of their community of life and filled with humor and compassion. In a thousand ways, these people are just like Anishinabe artist and activist Sam English, who transformed from alcoholic despair into one of Native America's most highly regarded artists. Thirty years after embracing sobriety, the diabetes he has fought for a decade has taken its toll. Sam's energy to continue producing his extraordinary works of art is exhausted.

Sam’s gratitude for his recovery and recognition inspired him to give generously of his time and artwork to causes that support Indian Country’s recovery from historical trauma. In the PBS documentary Colores, he says, “My being an artist gives me the freedom to be involved with community. It gives me an opportunity to interact with my community. That gives me the energy to be creative about my community. It’s given me access to life, to be able to do this. To have people look at my art and like what I do, that grounds me. Reminds me of where I came from. Reminds me that I have a contribution to make to my community.” Indeed, there is hardly a single cause—from domestic violence and child protection, to alcoholism and diabetes—that Sam English has not given to and created art for.





Today Sam’s community, including Anglos, HispaƱos and Indians, is just waking up to the fact that he has reached the time of his much-deserved retirement. In retirement, as during all the years of his working life, an artist's income is totally dependent on selling his art. Planning for the future, Sam has salted away paintings over the years in the hopes that they would provide a steady income in his golden years.

The collected paintings of Sam English constitute an unparalleled treasure trove of public art, created by the Native artist in cooperation with countless government agencies and non-proft organizations, as well as many original pieces. True to his legacy in community activism, each image makes a strong statement about Native American strengths and how we can help each other to build a better future. 

Sam hopes that selling his life’s work will provide him with an adequate retirement income, but he is hoping to find a single buyer for the collection, like a large museum, a tribe, or a private collector.

As a man who never turned away from an open hand or a good cause, it's up to us—all his relations—to step in for him, by helping to find a buyer for his magnificent life's work. Some of us might know acquisitions directors who might take up the cause. Some of us might be able to write letters to the Heard, NMAI, tribal leaders or private collectors and let them know how important Sam's art is to you.

Sam said of his art, “I want Indian people to look at it and say, ‘Hey, this is a good rendition of who we are and invokes all the things that make me feel good about myself.’” Anyone enjoying Sam’s art, or his company, is inspired both to feel good and to do better for each other.

Recommending Sam's art to your friends with money: Free

Sam English coffee table book: $47.98

Sam English signed Tribute to Wilma Mankiller: $335.00

Original Sam English paintings: Price available on request

Helping Sam create the retirement he deserves: Priceless


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Parents, Tribes Not Enthused About Legal Marijuana

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in two states and for medical use in 19 states plus Washington DC (as of this writing).  Investors are excited about opportunities to create a "clean American brand" for legal marijuana, and to invest in marijuana-laced edibles, a fast-growing sector. But lots of people from tribal governments to parents, are worried about the effects of legal marijuana.

Tribes can pass laws to decriminalize marijuana, but so far most tribes firmly oppose marijuana use on tribal land, even though legalization has created something of a jurisdictional nightmare for tribal police. Tribal members can use legal or medical marijuana outside tribal borders but not on tribal lands. In the absence of specific laws prohibiting use, non-Indians can use medical marijuana on tribal lands without fear of reprisal, since the Justice Department is refraining from prosecuting medical users.

However, that hasn't stopped the Salt River Maricopa-Pima Indian Community from seizing vehicles driven by state-licensed medical marijuana patients. The tribe released a statement saying,"People who transport drugs in any jurisdiction face the possibility that they will be arrested, prosecuted, and that the vehicles they use to transport drugs may be seized." The Northern Cheyenne Tribe refused an exemption for a medical marijuana user awaiting trial. Some tribes are even going head to head with states over local prohibitions against marijuana dispensaries. Other tribes, like the Navajo Nation (which lies in two medical marijuana states), are still debating decriminalization. The tax advantage of selling legal marijuana would benefit Washington tribes in the same way that tobacco sales do, which might be more appealing if tribes weren't so thoroughly tired of cartels running grow operations on tribal lands.

Tribal officials aren't the only one who want to put the brakes on legalization. A survey of parents in Washington and Colorado show that although a majority of parents support legalization, they want to ensure that legal marijuana stays out of the hands of children, and is not advertised or used in places where children can see it. Poison control experts who sounded an alarm about the dangers of children ingesting medical marijuana have advocated in favor of childproof containers, and education programs that advise parents to treat medical marijuana the way they would any prescription drug-- secured and away from kids.

For more about issues with prescription drugs and drug endangered children in Indian Country, join us at our upcoming two-day training in Spokane, WA!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Public Safety Hit Hard by Federal Cutbacks


The impact of sequestration is hitting public safety in Indian Country hard. Tribes have been cutting law enforcement positions and closing mental health programs. The horror stories are rolling in: The Oglala Sioux are down to one officer on duty at any time. The Navajo can't staff a jail that they built. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa are losing 22 BIA employees, mostly law enforcement officers. At Pine Ridge, where someone tries to commit suicide nearly every day, they have had to cut two counselor positions. Cuts to IHS programs have gone far deeper than expected, shuttering clinics and limiting emergency services.

While hundreds of millions have been cut from IHS and SAMHSA (mental health) programs, cuts to smaller programs are also having an impact. Programs designed to turn life around for kids have been decimated, from Headstart to the Tribal Youth Program, which had been helping kids discover alternatives to drugs and gangs. Tribal police are having more and more trouble staying ahead of the curve. As one officer explained, "It's really hard to be proactive when you don’t have enough staff."

What can be done? The National Congress of American Indians has already passed a resolution stating that sequestering funds for tribal activities amounts to a treaty violation, which still doesn't get boots on the ground or doctors in the clinic. Some tribes are cushioning the impact with funds from gaming, grant funds that have already been awarded or settlements. Some tribes are seeking partners in or out of the tribal community to help make up the gap. Join the discussion at our SafeRez group on LinkedIn to share ideas on how we can pull through this difficult time.

Friday, May 31, 2013

More Prosecutions, More Transparency, Better Relationships


A report for the Attorney General on Indian Country highlights the improvements that TLOA has wrought. Federal prosecutions for crimes committed on reservations is up 54% since 2009. Tribes and feds are also working together to decide whether cases should be tried in tribal courts or in federal courts, resulting in building trust and respect on both sides.

 Declinations are still high in some areas, but in others, they're down to about 20%. In the past two years, declined cases were overwhelmingly due to a lack of evidence. Tribes and prosecutors alike insist that the declination rate doesn't matter so much as long as everyone is working together. Grant Walker, the tribal prosecutor for the Standing Rock Sioux, said, “Declinations aren’t really a big deal anymore to us because we know what the case is, and if the federal government declines we’ve already had a chance to prosecute that case too. So it’s not like the ball is hidden, and the prosecution’s office doesn’t know about it.”

Have you been seeing a difference in your community? Join us at SafeRez to talk about justice, health and improving our tribal communities.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Are You Ready For Fire Season? It's Here!

When a wildfire swept through this mobile home park early one morning, residents had no time to think about what they wanted to take with them, they just had to run for it, before everything they had burned to the ground. Even small shifts in the weather can make a wildfire grow in unpredictable ways and travel faster than people can mobilize to stop it.

Devastating wildfires are, unfortunately, a fact of life these days. Drought across the West, combined with bad beetle infestations and a century of fire suppression have created a kind of perfect storm of conditions. This year, the wildfire season is starting months early, with fires burning this week in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Florida, and Alabama.

The approach to emergency planning for wildfires is the same as for any other emergency:
Assemble a Kit-- get together something you can grab as you go, containing clothes, medication, documents, and other things you may need (including food and medication for pets!)
Make a Plan-- talk with other family members about what to do and where to meet
Stay Informed-- stay aware of local conditions

There's also plenty you can do to keep your house safer.