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Tribal leaders address drug crisis on Menominee Reservation

Menominee Nation
Posted at 3:07 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 16:07:42-04

ASHWAUBENON (NBC 26) — The Menominee Nation is taking steps to address an ongoing drug crisis that tribal leaders say is effecting the tribe's younger population in particular.

The tribe recently updated its current drug ordinance to include banishment from the reservation as a possible punishment for distributing or selling illegal drugs. According to the ordinance, anyone involved in distributing or selling illegal drugs could face banishment for 1 year for their first offense and 2 years for their second offense. After their third offense, they could be banished for life. Those who distributed drugs that later caused an overdose death will also face lifetime banishment.

In addition, distributing drugs to a minor carries a heavier punishment. Anyone who distributes to a minor will face banishment for 5 years after their second offense. 

Tribal leaders say they decided to take action after the pandemic worsened an already alarming drug crisis on the reservation. At a press conference Thursday, leaders said there have been around 70 overdoses on the reservation in the past three months alone. They say there have also been four drug-related deaths of young people just in the past year.

While the ordinance does list specific types of illegal drugs, tribal leaders say heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl have contributed the most to the epidemic.

"Our hopes are that this will get to the people that are selling these drugs and they'll know that they can no longer come on our reservation if they continue to do this to our people," said tribal legislator Myrna Warrington.

For Warrington, the epidemic hits close to home.

"I lost a daughter to drugs. I lost a grandson to drugs," Warrington said. "I wish I knew nine years ago what I know now. They would still be with me.”

The tribe has made an effort to educate young people about the harm of doing drugs by building an adolescent wellness in-treatment facility.

“Our tribal police officers that we have back home, they’re busy 24/7 trying to keep drugs out of the street, trying to keep them out of the children’s hands," said tribal president John Johnson Sr. "As a tribal leader, we’re talking about this daily. As the tribal president, I probably get four to five calls a week looking for help."

Warrington says she hopes this action will prevent other families from sharing her experience.

"This is what I’m trying to prevent with our other families in our community is to stop the deaths so people don’t have to have this pain, this loneliness, this guilt,” Warrington said.