Federal Grant to Help Native American Tribes in Wisconsin End Addiction Problems The Badger Herald


According to Jeff Muse, deputy director of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Education, Human Services and Epidemiology, four Native American tribes in Wisconsin are receiving a federal grant to fight substance abuse issues.

Wisconsin Public Radio reported that the Intertribal Council received $ 4 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The grant is a continuation of a previous grant from the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration due to alcohol and other drug problems in the tribes, Muse said.

“In response to the need, we set up an AODA-type grant through SAMSHA,” Muse said. “We invited all the tribes to participate, and… four responded that they were interested.”

The four tribes that responded – the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of the Chippewa Indians, the Short Eared Lake Band of the Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior Wisconsin, the Torch Lake Band of the Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior, and the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin – applied for and received the grant, according to WPR.

Isaiah Brokenleg, epidemiologist and program director for the Intertribal Council, said the grant will allow tribes to better examine data relating to drug addiction among American Indians, as current data is not very precise. For example, Brokenleg said in a smoking survey that the state only used 45 people over a three-year period, which is unreliable.

“It’s an inherent problem all over India when it comes to data,” Brokenleg said.

Brokenleg said the grant would then create systems to collect and store more consistent data.

Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem in all tribes, Muse said, as tribal communities are often vulnerable to trafficking and inner city poverty, which can lead to drug addiction.

Brokenleg said tribes experience substance abuse problems differently depending on various factors, such as geographic location. He said that while drugs and alcohol disproportionately affect American Indians, substances affect tribes in the same way they would any other race.

“It’s like saying, ‘How is HIV or AIDS different in a gay community compared to a straight community?’ ”Brokenleg said. “We could be disproportionately affected by [substance abuse], but it affects us the same way it affects anyone else.

Brokenleg said part of the reason drug addiction disproportionately affects the Native American community is because they have had to adapt to alcohol and drugs. People outside the tribes introduced them to these substances, he said, which is why American Indians have such a negative history of drug addiction.

A series of traumatic events throughout history, Brokenleg said, are also to blame for the tribes’ negative relationship with drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol abuse in particular is something that affects a wide range of Wisconsinites, according to WPR. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reported that Wisconsin is the nation’s highest drinking state.

Brokenleg pointed out that while drug addiction is a problem among tribal communities, it is important not to stigmatize American Indians on the basis of this alone.

“We are much more than this one problem,” Brokenleg said. “It’s a problem, and yes, this grant is going to help us tackle it, but we are much more than that.”


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