Article: White Earth Combating the Opioid Epidemic

Great article highlighting the work that the White Earth Nation is doing to combat the opioid epidemic and its impact on the community.

From the article:

“From rescue to long-term sobriety support, White Earth offers some of the best, most evidence-based, most effective, cutting-edge, and compassionate care in the multi-state region,” said Carson Gardner, a doctor with the White Earth Tribal Health Department. “Many of our programs are considered model pilot programs by state agency leaders. White Earth was recently invited to the National Senate Indian Affairs Committee to talk about what we’ve done around opioid treatment. One of the most important things that can happen is to stop being paternalistic and thinking tribes don’t have the capacity or ability to do it best.” . . .

So how are the needs of tribal communities in Minnesota different from non-native communities? “Native Americans in Minnesota have overdose rates five times that of whites,” Dr. Gardner said. “Our people have been in and out of external (non-native) treatment programs unsuccessfully. By operating our own treatment programs we can base curriculum, activities, and way of life on our culture.”

Culture is everything, he added. When treatment programs for Native American people are based on their culture, “you are then getting to the heart of healing. Substance abuse and mental health counseling is treating symptoms, but providing culturally-based ceremonies and activities is healing — and that is where we see the old ‘using’ spirit leaving people, and the good healthy spirit returning in people…”

Tribes face unique challenges, he added: They are dealing with multi-generational historical trauma, including loss of land and independence. They are struggling to preserve historical language, culture, and spirituality. They have to cope with too many untimely deaths, health disparities, and child welfare system disparities, as well as court system sentencing and incarceration disparities, Dr. Gardner said.

The treatment success rate for natives goes up when non-native staff become culturally competent, he added.

That means recognizing that the Anishinaabe way of life is a good way of life and learning about what that means, he said.

“Learn the stories, learn about ceremonies. Recognize that the addiction spirit in people is not the Anishinaabe way,” he said. “Respecting that, honoring it, promoting it.

One of the programs not specifically highlighted in the article, but getting a lot of attention for the success it is having is Maternal Outreach and Mitigation Services (MOMS Program), which is focused on providing holistic services for pregnant women in a supportive environment to deal with the medical and emotional problems caused by addictions to drugs such as prescription opiates and heroin. More information on the MOMS Program can be found here

The full article is available here.

Notice Violation Case out of Illinois

That’s right–out of Illinois. According to Westlaw (ICWA & “Indian Child Welfare Act”), there are a grand total of 11 ICWA cases from the Illinois appellate courts.

Here is the most recent. The appeals court reversed and remanded due to ICWA notice violations (for one child–the other was not the biological child of the father):

At the dispositional hearing on April 26, 2011, the trial court found Dwight to be unfit and awarded guardianship of N.L. to DCFS. Among the reports submitted for the court’s consideration was a social history report, dated March 23, 2011, indicating that Dwight is a registered member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation (the Tribe).


The trial court questioned the State about the children’s eligibility for tribal registry and was advised that the State had already received notices that both minors were ineligible for registry with the Tribe. The State was ordered to provide documentation of its compliance with the statute at the status hearing on December 18. No documents addressing the issue of tribal registry for the minors were submitted at that or any subsequent proceeding until the hearing on the State’s motion to supplement the record during the pendency of this appeal.


The State’s Tribe letters suggest that the Tribe was provided with the minors’ names and dates of birth and imply that Dwight’s name was provided with reference to N.L. The State’s Tribe letter for N.L is dated September 16, 2011, and that for M.L. is dated February 25, 2013. In its order granting the State’s motion to supplement the record, the court expressed concern with Dwight’s solicitation of new evidence while the case was on appeal. However, many of the documents the State was allowed to include with its supplementation were dated after the termination hearing and after Dwight’s notice of appeal.
Dwight filed a motion with this court to supplement the record with his own Tribe letter– from the same person who had signed the State’s letters– showing that N.L. and M.L. were eligible for tribal membership. He acquired this letter as a result of his solicitation for evidence related to the appeal. This court allowed Dwight to submit his Tribe letter with his case pending our decision of the propriety of its inclusion in the record. Dwight’s Tribe letter states that the minors are eligible for tribal membership and suggests that the Tribe was provided with the dates of birth for both minors, the correct spelling of N.L.’s name, and the names and dates of birth for both Dwight and Emily.

For reference, here’s the list of the Illinois appellate ICWA cases:

Continue reading

California Placement Preference Case Dismissed for Lack of Ripeness

Here. Child was from White Earth, and both tribal counsel and expert witness argued for relative placement. Department argued mother did not have standing and forfeited the relative placement issue even though child was “not suitable for adoption” and ICWA applied. Court disagreed but still dismissed:

Here, although A.C. had earlier requested assessment as a caregiver for the children, she withdrew her request in May 2012. She was again referred to the relative assessment unit on June 19. The record does not indicate whether that referral, only one month before the hearing on review, had yet been finalized. The orders appealed from do not address that issue. Because the assessment was still pending at the time of the hearing, we conclude the issue is not ripe for appellate review.

White Earth Band Chippewa Drafting New Criminal Code

From the Minn. Star-Tribune:

WHITE EARTH, Minn. – Tribal leaders of the White Earth Band of Chippewa are writing a new criminal code to replace state law for members of the band.

The White Earth Reservation crosses three counties. That means three sheriff’s offices are responsible for law enforcement on the northwestern Minnesota reservation. Over the years, the agreement has caused tension between county and tribal governments.

White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor says relying on counties for law enforcement has compromised public safety on the reservation.

“It all depends on the political whims of a sheriff or county commissioners. Our people deserve better than that,” Vizenor said.

Fineday v. Roy — Minnesota PL280 Jurisdiction over Child Support

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in Fineday v. Roy (unpublished) held that state courts have jurisdiction over reservation Indians in child support cases. From the opinion:

Andy Joseph Roy is an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Indians. He and Larissa Pauline Fineday have two children and live on the White Earth reservation. Fineday receives public assistance from the state. The county commenced an action to enforce Roy’s child-support obligation as a means of obtaining reimbursement for the public-assistance benefits. Roy moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, but the district court denied the motion. We conclude that the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the county’s action and, therefore, affirm.

Winona LaDuke Visit to Mid-Michigan

From the Midland Daily News:

Sustainable living with Winona LaDuke
By Noel Lyn Smith

Winona LaDuke spoke about sustainable living and shared examples of how that is being used on her home land of the White Earth reservation in Minnesota.

LaDuke, a Native American rights activist and environmentalist, spoke at Central Michigan University Monday as part of the monthlong series celebrating Native America Heritage Month.
She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg from the Mukwa Dodem (Bear clan) and is the founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project. She ran on the Green Party ticket as vice presidential candidate alongside Ralph Nader in the 1996 and 2000 elections.
“It is possible to have a world view outside an empire,” LaDuke said to the audience before beginning her speech.
She presented an indigenous view on sustainability and how that view centers on living within the “creator’s law,” which is the highest law, and that all living beings are related.
LaDuke told a story about herding buffalo at Yellowstone National Park, which is the last place buffalo freely roam.
In the winter, buffalo leave the protected boundaries of the park and some are shot when they enter cattle rancher’s private property. LaDuke said she skiied back and forth, trying to keep the buffalo inside the park.
She said that buffalo are vital to the land because they eat prairie grass in the winter by searching underneath the snow, which provides a natural churning of the land. Cattle, however, must be fed during the winter, using large amounts of fuel to transport feed.
That does not reflect sustainable living, she said.
She also talked about the projects the White Earth Land Recovery Project is managing. These projects range from growing native foods to reintroducing traditional animals to the area.
Utilization of alternative power sources is gaining notice on the White Earth reservation. Solar heating panels are used to keep homes warm in the winter, which also reduces heating expenses for families, she said, and the tribe is looking into wind turbines.
The 1983 Mercedes she owns was modified to run on biodiesel and is the first vehicle on the reservation to use this energy.
“It is the first fry bread power Mercedes Benz,” she said.
One of the tribal members asked LaDuke for more information about using biodiesel.
“He called me up and said, ‘I’m going to have to go out of business because of the price of fuel. How’s the grease, Winona?'” she said.

Winona LaDuke to Visit Ann Arbor — Nov. 12

Sponsored by: The Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the Trotter Multicultural Center as part of

Native American Heritage Month


Winona LaDuke


United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People


November 12, 2007



Trotter Multicultural Center, Lounge

1443 Washtenaw Ave.

(10 minute walk from Diag)


Winona LaDuke is an Ojibwe activist, environmentalist, economist and writer. In 1994, Time Magazine named LaDuke one of the nation’s 50 most promising leaders under the age of 40.

LaDuke was named Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine in 1997 and won the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1998. Additionally, she ran as the Green Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000 with Ralph Nader.

At the age of 18, she addressed the United Nations for the first time and we are fortunate enough to have her with us as she offers some of her thoughts on the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The flyer is here: Winona LaDuke Flyer

Hammitte v. Leavitt: Detroit Urban Indians Case Dismissed

The federal district court in Detroit granted the motion to dismiss filed by the United States/Indian Health Service on October 11, 2007.

The opinion is here.

Hammitte v. Leavitt Complaint

United States Motion to Dismiss

Hammitte Response to Motion

United States Reply Brief