NEW TOWN The Three Affiliated Tribes are taking steps to combat methamphetamine and other substance abuse on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
On Monday, a three-day conference,"In Your Face: Combating Substance Abuse: Fighting a Losing Battle?" began in the Event Center at the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge, west of New Town.
Sessions are focusing on methamphetamine, prescription drugs, gangs and drugs, and suicide prevention, among other topics.
Joe Keil, a national speaker on drug recognition and enforcement and author of the book, "When Just Say No Doesn't Work," Chris Grant, national Native American gang specialist, and Jacob Florez, a motivational speaker, were scheduled to speak, among a number of other presenters at the sessions.
Students from Mandaree and the Three Affiliated Tribes Boys and Girls Club are among the presenters scheduled for today.
Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said the conference is addressing some of the problems of gangs and drugs, and will educate parents and enable those in law enforcement, health services, social services and school officials to recognize the treatment options.
A drug task force was created on Fort Berthold a short time ago. "We meet monthly and have created a war on drugs at the MHA Nation," Hall said.
He said the drug task force is working on a report that will be distributed to all communities on the reservation.
The tribal business council budgeted $1 million for the war on drugs initiative, Hall said. He said they fight battles with education and are proactive.
"I see this conference as the first line of defense," Hall said. "Drugs, alcohol and suicide are not part of our culture. Our children are our future and we need to protect them," he said.
The Jan. 30 edition of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Times newspaper, reported "The Three Affiliated Tribes have survived the small pox epidemic but is facing a new epidemic drug addiction. Substances like heroin, methamphetamine, prescription pills, marijuana and alcohol are rapidly plaguing the reservation."
Levi Chapin, who wrote the MHA Times story, reported Reverta Drags Wolf, supervisor of Family Preservation, describes the drug problem as rampant and that children as young as 10 are using meth. She's working on finding a solution "...to get mothers prenatal care and away from drugs because a lot of the babies are being born with drugs in their system." She also said within the past year, at the very least, there have been 20 cases of mothers who have tested positive for drugs after giving birth.
The conference is being presented by the tribal Planning & Grants Department headed by Lisa Redford.
The conference. which ends Wednesday, is free and open to anyone interested. For more information about the conference and the agenda, visit (www.mhanation.com/).
Plans are to hold similar conferences in the future, Hall said.