Tulalip Tribal Members Fight Drugs With Facebook

(Photo by Roy Pablo)

Frustrated with the negative impact of illegal drugs in his community, Tulalip member Roy Pablo is using social media to build a grassroots campaign against drug-trafficking on the reservation.

His Facebook group, “Tulalip Tribal Members Fight against Drugs,” now has hundreds of members. The site provides information on the community effort and helps people schedule in-person meetings for anti-drug action.

“A lot of people were talking about the deaths and the overdoses going on in our community,” Pablo said. “People were getting sick of it, but no one ever said anything.” The idea is “letting them know that we're not taking this anymore, we're standing up for our community, and we're going to fight for it too,” he said. “We can't let them get away with it anymore.”

People wishing to support the mission are encouraged to join the Facebook group for information about upcoming meetings and events
 

Tohono O'odham Nation "Shadow Wolves" Track Smugglers On Arizona/Mexico Border

Brian Bennett / Los Angeles Times

Kevin Carlos is a member of the Shadow Wolves, a team of eight American Indian trackers who stalk drug smugglers though the desolate canyons and arroyos of the Tohono O'odham Nation reservation.

"I like to think I am protecting not only the U.S. but my area as well, my home," he says.

The Shadow Wolves work for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. To join the special unit, each officer must be at least one-quarter Native American and belong to a federally recognized tribe.

The trackers spend their days traversing the most isolated parts of the reservation, an 11,000-square-mile parcel of land in southern Arizona that shares a 73-mile border with Mexico. The nation, as it is called here, is the size of Connecticut and populated by more than 13,000 tribe members - slightly more than one per square mile.

There are no street signs and few paved roads. On the state highway, it takes three hours to drive from end to end.

The Shadow Wolves walk ridgelines, ride ATVs and roll high-powered pickups over mounds of shale and through rutted washes. They've trained their eyes to read the desert's tells:

Fresh tire tracks shimmer in sunlight.

Old footprints are crisscrossed with insect trails.

Marijuana bales leave burlap fibers on mesquite thorns.

When the U.S. Border Patrol clamped down on crossings in an area east of the reservation five years ago, smuggling rings moved their routes to the forbidding 60-mile backcountry corridor that crosses Tohono O'odham lands. Two billion dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine and heroin have moved through the reservation since then, according to ICE estimates.

The Shadow Wolves use GPS locaters, high-powered radios and other modern tools, but it is their tracking skills and their feel for the hidden box canyons, caves and seasonal watering holes that make them formidable counter-narcotics agents.

"It takes patience. These guys think they are out in the middle of nowhere, scot-free," Carlos says. "Then we find them."

For more information on the Shadow Wolves, read the LA Times article HERE.

War On Drugs Opens New Front: Tribal Lands

Washington State Patrol Officers Seize Marijuana On Reservation

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mexican drug gangs are attempting to increase profits and eliminate clashes with border police by growing more marijuana inside the United States – and specifically in remote areas of Native American reservations. In Washington state alone, the number of marijuana plants seized on Tribal lands has increased by a factor of 10 since 2006.

Drug growers typically seek to operate in geographically remote areas that are rarely inspected by law enforcement. In past years, America’s large National Parks were a prime growing area until federal enforcement was stepped up to curtail the practice. Isolation and lack of law enforcement funding has now placed many Tribal territories on the list of desired drug growing locations. For example, the Colville Reservation in eastern Washington state encompasses 2,200 square miles but is patrolled by only 19 Tribal police officers. Many reservations have thousands of acres of uninhabited land that usually go unnoticed by local residents and police, making them desirable target areas for drug growers.

While the upswing in drug growing activity is a troubling development, efforts to counter the trend may also provide an opportunity to improve public safety on reservations. The chronic lack of state and federal funds for law enforcement on Tribal lands has long contributed to increased crime rates and a backlog of unresolved cases. Now that Native American reservations have become part of the front line of the war on drugs, perhaps increased resources will be applied to raise the standard and efficiency of law enforcement activity in Tribal territories.