Indian Tribes Struggle Against Meth

By McCarton Ackerman 06/01/12

American Indians have higher rates of meth abuse than any other ethnic group, and the effects on communities are catastrophic.

The struggle continues. Photo via

One American Indian reservation in Northern California has recently seen methamphetamine addiction almost destroy its community—and it's far from alone. The Hoopa tribe, consisting of 3,000 members living on the reservation, says that police struggle to stay on top of all the meth-related crimes in town, while their truancy rate in schools is at a whopping 60%, compared to 18% across the county. In addition, the Indian Health Service doesn't track meth use, making data—and solutions—hard to come by. But many believe that the drug use among the Hoopa and other tribes is a direct result of historical trauma. “We are a conquered people,” says Melodie George-Moore, who teaches English and Native-American literature at Hoopa High School. “Unlike any other group in the US, we are unique in that respect. That didn’t happen to any other group in this country and it continues to happen to this day…In order to understand the pressures people are living under, you have to understand how it looks from a Native perspective to be a conquered people in the US.” Meth abuse rates have hit 30% on some rural Indian reservations, while a 2006 Bureau of Indian Affairs report claims American Indians have higher rates of meth abuse than any other ethnic group, and nearly three times higher than Caucasians. Nearly 65% of all documented cases in some Indian communities involving child neglect and placement of children in foster care can be traced back to parental involvement with methamphetamine.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.