Spirit Lake Tribe declares a state of emergency

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
One of the pillars of our community, the Spirit Lake Nation is only seven miles south of Devils Lake.

In response to a wide-spread, mounting problem on the reservation the leaders of the Spirit Lake Nation have taken a bold stand by declaring a “state of emergency” on Friday, Aug. 21.

According to Nancy Greene-Robertson who serves on the Spirit Lake Nation Tribal Council in the dual role of Secretary-Treasurer, this is one of many steps to come in the battle against illegal drug use, abuse and trafficking on the Spirit Lake Nation.

“It has become an epidemic and the tribe is determined to do whatever it takes to address it within our borders,” Greene-Robertson said.

She outlined several ideas the tribe has been considering and they’re not alone in this, the other tribes in the state are considering similar steps. They are considering working together to fight this common “enemy” that is affecting nearly every family and enrolled member.

This “united front” they hope will discourage offenders from hiding out and eluding being held responsible for their crimes. There is talk of a list, or registry, of names of offenders that will be shared among reservations. If you are banished from the Spirit Lake Nation, for example, for a period of time because you have been convicted of the use of, abuse of, sale, trade or transport of illegal substances on the reservation, you may lose your Title 13 benefits for that time period, as well. They’re also looking at changes to when a young enrolled member can receive payouts, and possibly placing conditions on that receipt.

An emphasis is being placed on education in hopes that the longer an individual stays in school, the more education they obtain, the more they may realize the price they would have to pay should they be caught using or transporting illegal drugs.

The more they have gained, the more they would have to lose.

These changes, no doubt, will be among the topics discussed at the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Summit planned in conjunction with the United Tribes International Powwow in Bismarck in September.

The resolution

The resolution, No. A05-15-310 adopted Aug. 21 is reprinted here:

Whereas, the Spirit Lake Tribe of Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe acting under a revised Constitution dated May 5, 1960, approved by the Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Indian Affairs, July 14, 1961, and as subsequently amended July 17, 1969; May 3, 1974; April 16, 1976; May 4, 1981 and August 19, 1996, which amendments were approved by the Commissioner, Bureau of Indian Affairs; and

Whereas, the Constitution of the Spirit Lake Tribe authorizes and empowers the Spirit Lake Tribal Council, the governing body of the Tribe, to engage in activities on behalf of and in the interest of the welfare and benefit of the Tribe and of the enrolled members thereof; and

Whereas, the use, abuse, sale trade and transport of illegal narcotics and substances has reached an epidemic proportion on the Spirit Lake Tribe reservation; and

Whereas, illegal narcotics and substances wreak havoc in families while contributing to high rates of child abuse and neglect, high rates of violent crimes, and threatening the overall safety and well-being of individuals on the Spirit Lake Reservation; and

Whereas, illegal narcotics and substances cause both short and long term health consequences, including death; and

Whereas, in recent months the illegal substances that have been trafficked on the Spirit Lake Reservation include but are not limited to methamphetamines, prescription medications and heroin; and

Whereas, the Spirit Lake Tribe lacks sufficient tribal justice system resources needed to combat this rise in illegal drug activity; and

Now be it declared, that based upon discussions with Tribal Council, input from justice system professionals and information from Tribal members the Spirit Lake Tribe hereby formally declares that a state of emergency exists on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

Now be it further declared, that resources available to the Tribe will be used in coordination with Federal, state and local government justice system officials to combat drug trafficking on the Spirit Lake Reservation for the purpose of restoring peace and safety of the Tribe. This Declaration shall remain in effect until formally ended by future action of Tribal Council.

Signed by Myra Pearson, Chairwoman of the Spirit Lake Tribe, August 21, 2015.