March 31, 2015

Barrasso Opening Statement at SCIA Field Hearing in Wyoming on the Harmful Effects of Drugs in Native Communities

Ethete, WY — Today, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks at an oversight field hearing on addressing the harmful effects of dangerous drugs in Native communities and how local leaders and agencies are working to find solutions to effectively address this challenge. The field hearing took place on the Wind River Indian Reservation at the Tech Center of the Wyoming Indian High School, in Ethete, WY. 
The field hearing featured two panels. The first included witnesses from prosecution and law enforcement agencies. The second panel featured witnesses from the tribal governments, service providers, and the tribal community.
Click here for more information on their testimonies. 
Senator Barrasso’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I want to welcome everyone to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs’ oversight hearing on Addressing the Harmful Effects of Dangerous Drugs in Native Communities. 
“As Chairman of the Committee, I called this important oversight hearing to examine these problems— and even more importantly, to find solutions which could address the problems and help people live healthier lives.
“I would first like to thank The Wyoming Tech Center of the Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River Indian Reservation and Superintendent Michelle Hoffman for hosting today’s committee hearing.
“It was important to bring this hearing to the Wind River Indian Reservation. It is the home of two Indian tribes— The Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone. I want to welcome and recognize their leaders in attendance today.
“Around a decade ago, their community was targeted by criminal drug trafficking organizations. The meth brought in by those criminals had devastating effects.
“Due to the efforts of the tribal governments, and Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, these organizations were successfully dismantled.
“The former U.S. Attorney in Wyoming, Matthew Mead, who is now the Governor, testified before our Committee in 2006 that having the support of tribal leaders was key to the success of those efforts. I believe that support is still key and their presence today is encouraging.
“I also want to thank the law enforcement officials here today for their special dedication and hard work.
“Even though unseen and without recognition their efforts positively impact Indian communities. Throughout Indian Country drugs affect communities in unfathomable ways.
“Both the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have generally noted to my staff that the drug abuse often leads to other crimes— including theft, burglary, assaults, and even homicide.
“For too long, the Wind River Reservation had one of the highest rates of violent crime in Indian Country.
“In 2009, I worked with the tribal leaders and then-Secretary Salazar from the Department of the Interior to improve law enforcement services on the Wind River Reservation.
“As a result, the Wind River Reservation was selected for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ law enforcement pilot program to reduce violent crime— the High Priority Performance Goals (HPPG) program.
“According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, from 2009 to 2013, the Wind River Indian Reservation had a sixty percent reduction in violent crime.
“That is a remarkable accomplishment and perhaps a template that other tribal communities could model. We do not want the success of this pilot program to be diminished.
“A key contributing factor in the continued success is the multi-jurisdictional and interagency approach.
“Service providers play a key role in preventing and treating addictions, supporting families, and protecting children.
“The Committee is looking for solutions to improve responses to these problems and the emerging trends in substance abuse.”