APTN National News
A tribal council consisting of seven First Nations in Manitoba has declared a state of emergency in hopes of addressing what it calls “rampant” drug use in the communities.
The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council consists of approximately 20,000 members from Birdtail Sioux, Dakota Tipi, Long Plain, Roseau River, Sandy Bay, Swan Lake and Waywayseecappo First Nations.
Chiefs from the community say they are losing the war on drugs and are calling on the provincial and federal governments to step in and help.
“In the last few years [we’ve had] prescription, fentanyl and methamphtamines coming into our community,” said Birdtail Sioux First Nation Chief Kenneth Chalmers. “That is really having a real effect on our young women and young men. And what tipped us over the top was our children being born addicted.”
Birdtail Sioux First Nation is a community of about 800 people located along the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border. According to Chief Chalmers 60 per cent of the babies born in his community last year were born addicted to drugs.
He says two of the babies died due to brain damage.
But it’s not just babies living with addiction.
For the small community of Dakota Tipi First Nation—located 80 km west of Winnipeg—youth and teens are now getting hooked on prescription pills.
“We see it in our youth because it’s small,” said Chief Keith Pashe. “Everybody knows. Everybody talks. Everybody knows who the drug dealers are. Everybody knows what’s happening. But how do we fix it?”
There are no statistics showing the number of people addicted to drugs in the community as each First Nation has their own way of keeping track, but Chiefs say the problem is so prevalent that a centralized drug treatment centre is needed. Right now the communities are relying on alcohol treatment centres or facilities located in Winnipeg.
“We want to bring them home and treat them at home with their families and we need a drug treatment centre based at the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council level,” said Chief Chalmers.
This week chiefs signed a resolution calling on the provincial and federal governments to help fund a new drug treatment centre specifically for the DOTC with hopes it would not only tackle the drug problem but also the increase in crime.
The Dakota Ojibway Police Service says thefts and break-ins have been on the rise.
“We’ve seen some increase in some crime in Long Plain First Nation. Sandy Bay has been steady, but certainly we’ve seen some increase in some drugs especially places that are close to the city. Along southern Manitoba it seems to be a crisis that is here in the province,” said Chief of Police Rick Head.
Chiefs say they have little resources to tackle the growing drug problem, and are using unconventional methods to identify those who need help.
“Social media is also a good indicator of things that are happening within our community so you can see that people are crying out for help,” said Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches.
The Tribal Council says it will deliver the signed resolution to the provincial and federal governments by the end of the week.
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