"Uniting Our Community" meeting addresses concerns
By Alyssa Nenemay
Nearly 100 concerned members of the community attended the meeting at the Koostahtah Hall. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
ELMO — It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and Koostahtah Hall was filled with nearly 100 concerned community members who came to discuss the lingering drug and alcohol problem that plagues the Flathead Reservation.
“I no longer want to be silent because my words and actions can make a difference,” said meeting attendee Kayla Keplin Ridgley.
Elmo community member and Cultural Instructor for Head Start Junior Caye hosted the “Uniting Our Community” meeting. Caye expressed that he would like to see a culturally based treatment program on the reservation to offer assistance to Native Americans struggling with addiction.
Elmo community member Junior Caye hosted the “Uniting Our Community” meeting in order to discuss solutions to the reservation’s lingering substance abuse issues. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
Meeting goers were given sheets of paper that were hung on a wall to discuss solutions, causes, or thoughts on the reservation’s drug and alcohol epidemic. Some thoughts included: “When I call no one comes to help,” “We need to go back to the ways of our community,” and “Feeling unsafe intruders break in.”
More outgoing attendees were given the opportunity to discuss their concerns and experiences in an open setting using a microphone. Intimate testimonies included stories of a mother who feels helpless to her daughter’s addiction, a woman who said she is tired of family members stealing from her medicine cabinet, a father who works to give his children a secure home free of drugs or alcohol, and an elder who said she needed to be there more for her community’s youth.
Attendees were given sheets of paper to write down their thoughts, experiences, or solutions to the area’s drug epidemic. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
The meeting was called at a time that the reservation’s substance abuse issues have boiled over. This past year, the Tribes’ Child Protective Services program released statistics on a rise in meth related referrals, the CS&KT Police confiscated nearly a pound of Methamphetamine during a drug raid in Pablo, and the Tribal Health and Human Services Program announced that it will be under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The “Uniting Our Community” meeting attracted members of several tribal departments who are on the front line of the epidemic. Members of the Tribes’ Social Services program, Law Enforcement, Tribal Health Department, and Cultural Preservation Department were in attendance.
“This will not be an easy battle to fight,” said one community member. “We all need to come together if we’re going to win. I believe we can and that’s why I’m here.”
Correction: The Editor mislabeled the article as a Kootenai Culture Committee Meeting. It was a "Uniting Our Community" meeting. The editor apologize for any confusion.