Opiates on the rise; Northwest tribal members fight disenrollment; ‘Best idea?’

HCN.org news in brief.


In February 2013, Michelle Roberts, along with approximately 300 other members of Washington’s Nooksack Tribe, received a letter informing her that she was being ejected from her own tribe. Roberts and others fought back, kicking off three years of legal battles over tribal membership, still ongoing. In recent years, disenrollment, as the process of ejecting tribal members is known, has gained steam, typically for financial reasons. More than 30 California tribes have taken steps toward disenrolling members. In the case of the Nooksack 306, as they’re known, the conflict has been particularly personal and tinged with uncomfortable questions about racial and tribal identity. People who lose tribal membership also can lose access to financial and medical benefits and may experience psychological harm from the deprivation of cultural identity. Notables such as author Sherman Alexie have spoken out, and a social media campaign has sprung up to stop disenrollments like those of the Nooksack 306.  
-Ben Goldfarb

The “Stop Disenrollment” campaign urges tribal members and other people to share photos with slogans against disenrollment on their hands.

In March, a batch of illegally made fentanyl, a potent opiate used to treat pain, sold on the streets in Sacramento County, California, led to 11 deaths in the area and more than 50 overdoses. The overdoses were part of a broader opiate and heroin epidemic in the West and across the nation. In 2000, only one Western county — Rio Arriba in New Mexico — had a drug overdose rate of more than 20 deaths per 100,000 people. Today, nearly 200 Western counties do. The spread is due in part to the prevalence of prescription painkillers, as well as stricter regulations intended to restrict them that inadvertently created a demand for heroin when legal pills became more expensive and harder to find. Have you seen impacts or solutions in your community? Write us or fill out our anonymous tip form online.
-Paige Blankenbuehler 

16: Number of “food hubs” — a new take on the old agricultural co-op idea — operating in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The U.S. Department of Agriculture put about $1 billion into 40,000 local food infrastructure projects across the country between 2009 and 2015. But that’s a small fraction of the amount the agency gave to industrial agriculture.
-Lyndsey Gilpin

In April, the federal Surface Transportation Board cancelled a proposed railroad intended to ship coal from a since-abandoned Montana mine. For decades, coal has been a mainstay of the Western railroads. Rail companies therefore have made big cuts and other changes as the coal industry’s decline continues, and now they’re looking for new products to ship. For example, rail giant BNSF has furloughed 4,600 workers, about 10 percent of its staff, since last year.  
-Elizabeth Shogren

In an opinion piece that sparked heated discussion among readers, Alan Spears, director of cultural resources for the National Parks Conservation Association, argues that “parks are not America’s ‘best idea,’ and describing them as such may be preventing us from creating and sustaining the diverse constituency our national parks need to survive and thrive in their second century.” Instead, he says, members of marginalized groups may rank other ideas higher, such as marriage equality or civil rights legislation. To create a more representative coalition of parks supporters, those groups’ understanding of American history must be incorporated, too.

You say

Steven G. Herman: This is an apple-and-oranges argument. Certainly we need to bring minorities into our parks; that is a very high priority. But the “best idea” concept applies in a conservation sense. 

Swirling Wheelnuts: This is an argument for people of color to be included in the discussion of nationalized public property. That white people so vociferously argue against the inclusion of these ideas of people of color speaks to the racism deep in their ideology.

Doug Luccheti: Literalists spoil everything, literally.

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