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Editorial: Wyoming tribes battle drug influence on reservation

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, listens to testimony from Darwin St. Clair Jr., the chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, at a field hearing on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming on March 31. Photo from Flickr

Wyoming newspaper Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, to continue efforts to address drug problems on the Wind River Reservation:
Last month, Sen. John Barrasso, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, visited the Wind River Indian Reservation to learn about how drugs are harming Native American communities.

He heard from people in the law enforcement, health care and political sectors. Unfortunately, Barrasso, Wyoming’s junior senator, was the only member of Congress present. That’s disappointing. An issue of such widespread concern deserves more attention from our representatives at the federal level.

How widespread? In fiscal year 2014, there were more than 31,000 methamphetamine-related encounters in the Indian health care system. Two years before that, a full 44 percent of the babies born in one community were exposed to drugs while still in the womb. On the Wind River reservation, home to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, there’s a crime rate at least five times the national average. The reservation, which at 2.2 million acres composes most of Fremont County, reflects the national picture in many ways: Unemployment is high, and poverty is rampant.

Testimony at the hearing traced that back to drug abuse. “On the Wind River Reservation, the social effects of substance abuse are vast,” Sunny Goggles, the director of the White Buffalo Recovery Program, which serves the Northern Arapaho Tribe, told Barrasso. “Families are torn apart, lives are lost and personal injury is the result.”

Get the Story:
Editorial board: Hearing is part of bigger picture on reservation (The Casper Star-Tribune 4/21)

Committee Notice:
Oversight Field Hearing on "Addressing the Harmful Effects of Dangerous Drugs in Native Communities." (March 31, 2015)

Related Stories:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds field hearing in Wyoming (04/01)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee's field hearing (3/26)
Sen. Barrasso to chair field hearing on drugs in Indian Country (3/25)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold field hearing on drugs (3/16)

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