Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Robert “Sargie” Howe (left) speaks on the possible banishment of drug offenders on the Crow Reservation during the March 31 Crow Law & Order Summit. Howe believes in the rehabilitation of drug offenders through the “Crow way” instead of banishment or through exile.

Meth crisis


The Crow Tribe Legislature held a Crow Law & Order Code Summit from March 29-31 at the Big Horn Resort with the purpose of addressing the “meth crisis” on the Crow Reservation.

The summit provided a forum for a coordinated community response and an opportunity to update their Law & Order Code to that effect.

“It’s common knowledge to all the Crow people that [a cartel is here],” said Christine DeCrane of the Tribal General Council. “Every chairman from each 107 [council] should be here, as well as the tribal chairman, because this is the No. 1 problem on the reservation.”

In the summit, contrasting opinions relating to the meth crisis on the Crow Reservation were expressed. Some promoted the incarceration and banishment of drug offenders, while others preferred rehabilitation and recovery.

“We’re getting hit pretty hard with this meth crisis and our laws aren’t updated to keep up with it,” said Sen. Frank Whiteclay. “We’re behind and that’s why were having this [meeting].”

Topics of discussion included the addition of other substances to the “under the influence” category of the Crow Law & Order Code, which would include prescription drugs, spice – a mix of herbs and manmade chemicals with mind-altering effects and methamphetamine.

“One thing that we came across,” said Addiction Counselor Valerie Falls Down, “is that if we do add those [substances] to the Law & Order Code, the law enforcement doesn’t currently have testing for spice or meth so, we can’t test for these [drugs].”

According to Falls Down, with drug testing kits costing “around $50 each,” they would be “costly” in large numbers.


Differing opinions


Sen. Shawn Real Bird, who believes meth use represents the “biggest crisis on the reservation,” mentioned the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders meeting, where the meth crisis was also the main concern. According to Real Bird, tribal chairmen and elected officials said banishment is their “only avenue, because many times within the BIA, FBI and tribal and government system, nobody will prosecute the non-tribal individuals who are distributing methamphetamine.”

“Based on that,” he said, “the tribal leaders expressed that [banishment] is the only option that they have, and I tend to believe in and support that.”

In addition to his opinions, Real Bird expressed the fact that, according to the BIA Social Services, four babies are born each month at Crow Agency’s IHS with confirmed signs of methamphetamine in their system.

“We, the Legislature and we, the Crow Tribal government need to make a code or law so that when these mothers [who use] are pregnant, these children are able to be born healthy,” Real Bird said. “I don’t think that we understand the crisis yet; I don’t think that we are ready to accept it.”

“Others’ idea is to [incarcerate offenders],” said Robert “Sargie” Howe of the BIA Social Services, “but our idea as Crows is to rehabilitate them in our way.”

Sen. Whiteclay expressed similar belief in the fact that the banishment of tribal members should be reconsidered.

“I think our priorities are mixed up; we keep talking about banishment and following what these other tribes are doing,” he said, “but these people are Crows, they’re humans. I think that recovery and prevention is the key to saving them. I know users and their victims, and their circumstances.”

“We all have ideas of what solution should be and we all have ideas of rehabilitation and recovery,” said Tribal General Attorney Robert LaFontaine. “For the past 50 years, I’ve been hearing stories about rehab and punishment – and whether one is good or not – and it just keeps going back and forth, and it will always be that way. You just have to keep up the fight.”

LaFontaine continued, commending all the senators for their attendance and insight.