The 2018 METH Awareness Initiative took place from July 24-26, 2018, in Wagner, South Dakota. The Yankton Sioux Tribe mandated attendance tribal employees. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

Yankton Sioux Tribe tackles meth problem on the reservation

Boarded-up homes tell the story of Meth
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

WAGNER - A conference on meth took place on the Yankton Sioux Tribe last month and brought concerned tribal members together with those working hard to combat this devastating drug.

The 2018 Meth Awareness Initiative took place in Wagner on July 24-26 at the Armory building and was sponsored by the Yankton Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement. As part of this special event, the YST Tribal Council mandated attendance by all tribal employees. This mandating sets a precedent for other tribal nations to get involved and also reflects on the need to bring larger numbers of members to these meth meetings and initiatives.

Meth has made a home on the reservations and a drive through any tribal community reveals the evidence of heavy drug abuse. The Yankton Sioux Tribe is not without exception.

Facilitated by Crystal Owens of Crystal Solutions, the meth conference brought local and state leaders in law enforcement together to gain their perspective on the war against meth in South Dakota. As a person in recovery, Owens offers personal stories about addiction. This insight helped the gathering to understand the need to bring in these multiple perspectives. Owens understands the war on meth is going to take multiple agencies and cultural levels to confront the issues meth presents.

More from Native Sun News Today
'That horse saved my life': Former addict turns to beloved animal for recovery

LeeAnne Red Owl has been an addict for most of her teen and adult life. A horse helped turn her life around.

Organizer Donnette Patterson works with tribal law enforcement as a Process Server and helps in other projects throughout the tribe as well.

"My role at this event happened by way of the lieutenant (Willard Brugier, Jr.) not being able to help as much as he would have liked to," said Patterson. "This was something he felt he would like to see me do. I just try to help out as much as I can, where I can."

From 2000-2008, Patterson worked as the Court Administrator for the tribe. During that time period, she witnessed the meth use in the community steadily increase. Today, there are more and more youth getting involved with meth, according to Patterson.

"I really hate to say it, but it's really a common thing. Users have their own little cliques and their own groups," Patterson said of the home meth has made on the Yankton Sioux Reservation.

Patterson's work in the community has caused her to lose friendships and has put strains on her relationships with family members who are using or are in recovery. "I have lost a lot of friendships and I'm not as close to my family as I once was," she said.

Throughout the conference, frustration kept surfacing as tribal members voiced concerns that they are tired of just "talking" about the meth epidemic and not enough is being done to curve the problem. A poll was taken during the event and only three persons in attendance raised their hands to claim the event was only about talking.

There were nearly 380 persons who registered for the 2018 Meth Awareness Initiative and the majority of those were pleased with the information they received from law enforcement, former addicts, and community leaders and presentations ranging from meth housing cleanup costs to spiritual investments needed to combat meth. Often times, tribal communities gave prayer as an only option against those things harming tribal communities.

This meth initiative was an empowering event which brought multiple perspectives in to discuss meth and presenters were more than willing to answer questions from audience members. The three day event was about healthy discussion of meth addiction and was designed not to point fingers towards any single group, including addicts, for the meth problem on the Yankton Sioux Tribe. The meth problem was defined as a community problem and it will take all members to help fight against it. This is the true definition of tribalism.


Support Native media!

Read the rest of the story Native Sun News Today: Boarded-up homes tell the story of Meth

Contact Native Sun News Today Correspondent Richie Richards at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
'That horse saved my life': Former addict turns to beloved animal for recovery (August 2, 2018)