Earlier in June, a grassroots group led by Summer Twoyoungmen, a member of Stoney Nakoda First Nation, marched to the tribal administration building in Morley, Alta. as part of the organized Battle Against Drugs Walk. The main aim of this campaign was to draw attention to the negative impact of addiction on their community.
“I believe there are a lot of people out there in support of this, but they’re unaware of it because they’re not online and they don’t see what’s happening,” said Twoyoungmen in her interview with OkotoksTODAY. “The walk would be a good chance to get exposure.”
Stoney Nakoda First Nation has been urging chiefs and councils to ban drug dealers on reserve land. The grassroots group calls itself Wácágâ ôkóná’gîcíyâ’bî — a Stoney Nadoka name that translates as a shield that provides both spiritual and physical protection. The March Against Drugs Walk was held as a solidarity protest by members of the community to speak out against the deadly effects of illegal drugs on the reserve.
“We want a bylaw that will show drug dealers aren’t allowed on the reserve,” said organizer Summer Twoyoungmen. “Even though they’re band members, we don’t want them here dealing their drugs on the reserve.”
Specifically, the group calls for the enactment of a local bylaw, which could ban convicted drug dealers (including Nation members) for a period of three to five years from the reserve land, with conditions placed upon their return.
Moreover, other first First Nations, including O’Chiese, Sunchild, Samson Cree and Enoch Cree in Alberta, have already enacted similar bylaws.
According to Twoyoungmen, there have been five overdose-related deaths among the members of the Nation, which consists of the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley bands and has about 4,000 members.
Twoyoungmen has been drug-free for two years, but says she is highly aware of the negative impact of hard drugs, such as methamphetamine and heroin, and its dealers who are responsible for delivering the deadly drugs to her community.
Twoyoungmen said that one of the recent deaths was her own mother, who was found dead at a drug dealer’s home earlier this year.
“We are tired of losing our loved ones … this drug epidemic has gone on for too long,” Twoyoungmen said. “How many funerals is it going to take for chief and council to stand up and say this is enough?”
So far, the group’s petition has collected over 400 signatures from band members, while Twoyoungmen said she plans to present it to Stoney’s chief and council.
According to Alberta’s substance use surveillance data, in the first nine months of 2020, there were 750 deaths in the province due to unintentional opioid overdoses. For the first six months of 2020, this equals to an average of 2.5 deaths every day.