Tribal leaders and citizens brainstorms solutions to methamphetamine in tribal communities as part of the Standing United Against Methamphetamine In The Dakotas conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Photo by Richie Richards
Health | Law | National

Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders tackle meth abuse in their communities

Tribal leaders take problem use head-on

By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY – A group of tribal leaders and addiction recovery providers came together in Rapid City to discuss their work in the battle against meth in their areas.

During the “Standing United Against Methamphetamine In The Dakotas” conference, participants and speakers were able to voice their concerns and vent their frustrations over the lack of involvement by federal, state, county, city and tribal governments regarding lack of funding, facilities and support of grassroots movements.

Although there are programs diligently working towards improving conditions to meth-related issues, many in the group felt the fight against meth was very much a grassroots campaign; as community members from several tribal communities have taken it upon themselves to combat the destructive drug. They are doing this without proper training, but have been succeeding in saving lives and putting dealers in the public eye.

Organized and facilitated by Sisseton Wahpeton tribal member, Crystal Owen of Crystal Solutions, the two-day conference was held on December 12-13 at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn near the Rapid City Civic Center, home of the Lakota Nation Invitational tournaments and events.

The meth conference was attending by several tribal leaders including Omaha Nation Tribal Chairman, Michael Wolf and Yankton Sioux Tribal Chairman, Robert Flying Hawk. Both chairmen expressed their concerns regarding meth on their reservations and commended the work of the providers and grassroots movements.

Several common themes came up during the presentations and comments made by those in attendance, including lack of law enforcement, lack of training in various communities, incarceration versus rehabilitation, easy access to meth, role of cartels on reservations, destruction of the family unit and the phenomenon of seeing dark spiritual energy.

Brandi Eastman-Decoteau (Sisseton Wahpeton) was in attendance. She has a program in Sisseton in which she hosts weekly meth support meetings and has been off of meth for over three years. Eastman-Decoteau shared her emotional story and the work she does in her community.

As a recovering addict, the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribal member and advocate talked about becoming clean and hitting rock bottom on more than one occasion; including losing custody of her kids and incarceration. She also spoke about the phenomenon of seeing “shadow people."

“These shadow people are real. I have seen them and continue to see them,” said Eastman-Decoteau, who claimed that addiction to meth can be overcome through prayer, support and will.

The two-day event was opened with a welcoming by Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, A. Gay Kingman, Executive Director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association who encouraged the findings of the group to be shared at a GPTCA future meeting.

The presentation by the Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team (UNET) was conducted by Rapid City Police Department Sergeant Chris Degroote and DCI Special Agent Jacob Korbakes. Their scientific and research-based presentation included the Mexican cartels’ involvement in trafficking on reservations in South Dakota.

Julee Richards of Mothers Against Meth Alliance presented on her grassroots work in Pine Ridge and shared her experiences in dealing with the epidemic which has spread across the reservation districts. Part of Richards’ work includes confrontation of dealers, addicts and providing a safe space for children whom she comes across during her nightly patrols of her community.

Richards is brutally honest in her work and encouraged others to get involved; even at the cost of losing relationships with the tribe and her own family members.

“This is a spiritual battle and we need warriors,” she said.


Support Native media and read more news on Native Sun News Today:

Tribal leaders take problem use head-on
Contact Native Sun News Today Correspondent Richie Richards at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Related Stories:
Native Sun News Today: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe banishes meth dealer (December 21, 2017)