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Two Rivers Tribune: Taking on substance abuse at Hoopa Valley

"He snorted his first line of dope when he was 15. He remembers the day. He ran with the older boys, and they tried to look out for him by refusing to rail him up. They told him “you better not.” But it wasn’t long before his “bros” caved to his curiosity. Nor was it long before he stopped snorting, and started shooting his poison. He spent the next 21 years incarcerated or on the run, battling an addiction that swept his youth away like powder in the wind.

Today, Michael is 38 years old with long black hair, salted gray. With 11 children and another on the way, he surrounds himself with “support people” and drenches himself in spirituality to stay healthy. With tattoos peaking above his coat collar, he spoke calmly about his journey to recovery and his drive to be a good father. Looking back, he says he wasted most of his life on drugs. “I’ve never been off of parole,” he said. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. He has 23 months drug free.

Michael caught the meth wave like thousands of people throughout the U.S. during the 1980s. He, like so many youth on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, stood little chance against the drug. By 1990, methamphetamine — a.k.a. speed, crank, crystal, dope — was considered epidemic in the rural west and Hoopa was no exception. A 2006 Bureau of Indian Affairs report claims American Indians have higher rates of methamphetamine abuse than any other ethnic group — nearly three times higher than Caucasians."

Get the Story:
Fixin’ Up Hoopa: A Community’s Struggle with Addiction – Part 1 (The Two Rivers Tribune 5/29)

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