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Energy industry brings gangs and drugs to tribe in North Dakota

The oil flare in Mandaree, North Dakota. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota has seen an increase in gang and drug activity as a result of the energy boom on the reservation.

Methamphetamine is being trafficked by heavily-armed gangs from out of state and Latin America. Even heroin has shown up.

"Now everyone is on meth and heroin," Mary Eleanor Fox, 66, told The Los Angeles Times. "It just makes me sick to my stomach."

Drug-related arrests of tribal members went from 47 in 2008 to more than 800 last year. The tribe's top judge estimates that 90 percent of her cases are drug-related.

"We're easy pickings," Chief Judge Diane Johnson told the paper.

Even newborns are affected. The first case of a child born addicted to opiates came in 2010 and there have been at least 15 since then.

As part of Operation Winter's End, the U.S. Attorney's Office has indicted more than 44 people who have been involved in the drug trade on and near the reservation.

The tribe has just 20 officers to patrol the 1 million-acre reservation. Sometimes there are only two on the job at the same time.

Get the Story:
Drug explosion follows oil boom on North Dakota Indian reservation (The Los Angeles Times 2/22)
Colorado couple fills medical void in Mandaree, N.D. (The Grand Forks Herald 2/22)

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