Ruben Rosario: Heroin brings devastation to Indian communities

David Cross, standing, and his twin brother, Gerald Cross, at a heroin town hall held at the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The brothers have formed Native Americans Against Heroin to fight heroin abuse in the Indian community. Photo by Hennepin County Sheriff / Twitter

Columnist Rubén Rosario discusses the impact of heroin among urban Indians in the Twin Cities and on reservations in Minnesota:
Joe Hobot has one word for it: devastating.

Clyde Bellecourt has another: epidemic.

They are both describing the impact heroin trafficking and abuse has had on the American Indian community in the Twin Cities and in reservations across the state.

Hobot, a University of St. Thomas graduate, is president and CEO of the Minneapolis-based American Indian Opportunity Industrial Center. A Lakota descendant of the Hunk Papa Band of the Standing Rock Nation, he also leads the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors.

Bellecourt, 79, is a community spiritual elder and co-founder of the influential American Indian Movement. Both generations of leaders, among others, raised alarms this week over the latest demon to afflict their community.

Call it what you want -- smack, horse, brown sugar, Mexican mud, whatever. Call it the Grim Reaper in another disguise. It's another poison claiming lives and wrecking families across the state and nation.

Bellecourt, who as a spiritual elder is on call to perform traditional drumming as well as sage- and sweetgrass-burning prayer ceremonies at area hospitals at the request of American Indian patients, shared details about a recent heroin-related death.

The victim, who lived in south Minneapolis, was a 34-year-old mother of three. The oldest, 12, found her dead when he returned from school. Bellecourt presided over the burial, as he has done on numerous occasions in the past year.

"I don't know what happened to the kids," he told me.

Get the Story:
Rubén Rosario: Heroin a grim reaper of the American Indian community (The St. Paul Pioneer Press 5/28)

Also Today:
Minneapolis town hall looks at heroin's legacy of misery in Indian communities (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 5/30)
Heroin traffickers created 'epidemic' on Minnesota reservations (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 5/29)

Related Stories:
Charges announced in big drug trafficking ring in Indian Country (5/28)

Join the Conversation