By Lethbridge Herald on June 9, 2021.
Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald
Community members of the Blood Tribe held a rally on Wednesday to call out the Blood Tribe’s leadership for not doing enough to support grassroots people during the opioid crisis, and leveled serious accusations that the same leadership is turning a blind eye to ongoing drug activity within the community.
Elder Ron Scout Sr., who is president of the Standoff Community Association, says he and others on the Blood Tribe have been reporting instances of alleged drug dealing at the local Bringing the Spirit Home Detox Centre to the Blood Tribe Department of Health and tribal leadership for over a year.
“We have a detox centre here in the community of Standoff like other detox centres in Alberta,” he told media representatives on Wednesday. “These detox centres are meant for people healthwise to get in shape, and then they are shipped off to treatment. It seems to me here in Standoff this detox centre is a roadblock for a lot of them.”
“I don’t see why our leadership isn’t doing anything to stop this,” states Scout. “That is not what you call a detox centre. These are some of the issues that have to be addressed soon by our leadership, and the Department of Health has to look into this detox, straighten it out, and clean it.
“It needs to be cleaned up, and the higher ups need to be looked into.”
Scout says he is reluctant to name names because he fears retribution from others within the Blood Tribe.
The Lethbridge Herald contacted the Blood Tribe Department of Health for comment on these allegations, but was told the department would not be able to comment at this time.
Elder Roger Prairie Chicken (White Buffalo Horn), who until this Tuesday worked with the Kainai Wellness Centre as the band’s crisis coordinator, says it is common for those who speak up about these types of issues on the Blood Tribe, like Scout, to fear retribution. Prairie Chicken reveals he has recently been fired for speaking up publicly about the housing issues on the reserve, and the matter is going before the courts.
“For voicing my opinions with the Lethbridge Herald on housing, for voicing my opinions for the rights of the Blackfoot people, I have been served unjust,” he says.
As the now former crisis coordinator for the Blood Tribe, Prairie Chicken says he compiled the true statistics the impact the drug crisis was having on Blood Tribe members compared to official “false reports,” and has previously shared them with chief and council.
“This year the highest number of Blood Tribe losses on the Blood Band book, not the province, not the federal, but the Blood Tribe: we lost 184 Blood Tribe members all 30 years and up, and it pertains to alcohol and opioids,” he states.
Prairie Chicken says those deaths occurred between April 2020 and March 2021, and about 57 per cent of overdose deaths came from illicit drugs, and the other half came from overprescribed legal drugs and alcohol.
Elder Charlene Plume adds that the drugs and the housing crisis on the reserve, with multiple evictions taking place at Blood Tribe Housing of addicted individuals accused of selling drugs, are fueling one another, and leading to more drug deaths.
“Instead of helping the people with their addictions, they (Blood Tribe Housing) are evicting the people out of their houses,” Plume says. “Where does that stand with the people? About eight or nine of the people they have evicted from their homes– they have passed away. They just totally gave up. They (Housing) need to start working with the people instead of not dealing with the problem, and kicking them out.
“We are losing too many people,” she adds. “Half of the time I am sitting at home, we see our neighbour drive by with his backhoe. He is the one who goes and digs up the graves. We don’t even know half of the time whose funeral it is. We are having funerals every day, it seems like. We are tired of losing our loved ones to the drugs.”
Samantha Shouting lost her daughter Simone to a drug overdose this week. The 25-year-old mother of one’s addictions were aggravated after Simone was evicted by Blood Tribe Housing, Shouting says.
“My daughter was evicted by Housing about three weeks ago,” confirms Shouting, who holds up a picture of her daughter for the media to see. “From then on before her death, she was hopeless. She had nowhere to go. How does someone recover who is an addict if they have no more home? Because of her eviction, she is gone now.”
Shouting was finally able to bring her daughter home to live with her, and they spoke just this past weekend about Simone wanting to seek treatment and get well again.
“Two days later I find her in my basement with the paramedics working on her,” Shouting remembers.
Shouting says despite the millions of dollars in provincial and federal funding coming into the First Nation to help with the drug crisis, her daughter never received the help she needed from anyone.
“They took her baby, and that was it,” Shouting recalls. “They had nothing to do with her. No social workers went and talked to her or anything. When she goes missing, I am the one who is looking for her. And everybody is just like: she’s an addict. No, she’s someone’s mother. She is someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister.
“I don’t want to see another mother have to go through this,” she adds. “I have to raise my granddaughter now. With all the money coming on this reserve, there should be better solutions, more humane solutions, but no one is using them, or going out to help.”
The Lethbridge Herald sought comment from the Blood Tribe on all the issues raised by Shouting, Plume, Scout and Prairie Chicken, but was told there would be no official comment at this time.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter