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Deaths of four boys forces tribe to look inward

Four boys under the age of 16 died of alcohol-related causes over a six-month period on the Flathead Reservation in Montana.

The youngest were two 11-year-olds. Frankie Sonneah Nicolai and Justin Benoist were found dead in a field in February. Both had blood alcohol levels far above the legal limit. Justin's older brother, 14-year-old Tyler, died just months earlier.

The deaths caused the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to examine what went wrong. Benoist's family has been in and out of tribal social programs. "Our model is to keep trying, no matter what," Teresa Wall-McDonald, head of the human resources and development department, told The Missoulian.

Some say poverty, despair and lack of opportunity lead Indian youth to alcohol. According to Bureau of Indian Affairs statistics, Indian youth ages 15 to 24 suffer from alcoholism a rate more than 17 times the national average.

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Fighting back: Tribal leaders say cycle of alcohol abuse must end (The Missoulian 7/19)