Saturday, November 22, 2014


Because the Glacier Reporter prints Harry Barnes' reports to the tribe but the newspaper doesn't put them on their website even though half the tribal members live off the rez, I asked Harry if I could repost them here so people far away could have access.  I'm white, but I care.  Anyway, this particular issue is not confined to the rez.  Denying it is what the healing community calls "enabling," not helping.


Trained as an electrician, I had to study a lot of math, algebra, and trigonometry. I thought I just had to show up and not get shocked. I thought I left all of that behind in High School and college. Then getting into business I found new challenges in numbers and my mind was still resistant to all them figures. Everywhere there was numbers. This week I have to share some sobering numbers with you, but I hope you will read it all.

I had the opportunity to testify before the Department of Justice in a government to government consultation last month and the subject was the “Violence Against Women Act”. The original law was modified to address the high incidence of violence on Indian Reservations, especially directed towards women. For the first time it also allowed Tribal Courts to have jurisdiction over non-members who commit acts of violence against tribal members. Of course we have to make our Court system look like their system. 

As I prepared for my testimony I looked for data on our Blackfeet Reservation so I could speak from the local perspective. I was appalled at the numbers! They were not only staggering, they were absolutely scary. One in four Native women can expect to be victims of rape in their life time. Compared to other Montana Reservations, Blackfeet has a violent crime rate four to five times higher. According to the Montana Crime Boards Annual Report 2005 thru 2009 there were 2,214 reported cases of domestic violence, 89 forcible rapes, 36 attempted forcible rapes on the Blackfeet Reservation! 

The University of Montana Childhood Trauma Research Center conducted a survey of 7th graders in Browning Schools and found a significantly large percentage of children who showed symptoms of Child Traumatic Stress with additional components for traumatic grief. In the 2007 study of 193 students, 62.2% scored above criterion in Violence exposure and 54.4% were above criterion for the Child Traumatic Stress scale. In a subsequent 2010 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), Browning Middle Schoolers scored an average of 14. The National average is 4!  When acts of violence against Blackfeet women occur, they do not happen in a vacuum. A future generation becomes desensitized to violence and comes to accept it as a natural way of life. Our children all are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

That brings me to my next subject, BULLYING. Many have said the Browning School District is not doing enough to stop bullying. Why do they allow this to go on? Why haven’t they stopped this? I have talked to the Superintendent and several staff members on this very topic. I believe the District is working very hard in an attempt to reduce the incidences of bullying. Countless hours of training has been devoted to staff on this nationwide epidemic. I also believe it may be beyond the District’s ability to completely eliminate bullying. The District has received an Aware Grant (see last week's Glacier Reporter) and feel very strongly that this will go a long way in mobilizing the public and providing  some tools to combat this plague. Keep in mind how many of our children have been desensitized to violence. This is not a School district problem in Browning or Heart Butte which faces the same issues. This is a Reservation problem that will require all of us to participate in finding solutions beyond the blame game. I am working with the districts to get Resource Officers in the schools. Just one piece of a broader solution.

My good friend Father Ed Kohler added a scary statistic to his sermons to try to awake me and others to our problems ( He always struggled just to keep me awake). He said 40% of the babies being born at the Blackfeet Community Hospital had drugs in their system. I always thought that was too many. Visiting with Tim Davis from BCH a week ago he said of ten babies born in the last two weeks 7 had drugs in their system! I am not a math wizard but that seems like almost 70%. Drugs and alcohol have become one of our greatest challenges. 

If we look around the world wherever there are pockets of intense poverty (certainly we live in one) there are certain things that follow that poverty – drug and alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, and child abuse. We suffer from all of these. Why do the Police do nothing to stop the dealers? Everyone seems to know who they are, but no one wants to help convict. The Police do have a big role in the drug problem. But again this is a Reservation problem. The Montana State Patrol will be cross deputizing our Blackfeet Law officers who will be able to ticket non-members. That will give us a little more safety. During the 2009 thru 2013 measuring period there were 33 fatal accidents on the Blackfeet Reservation. Of these at least 30 were drug or alcohol related. We need to come to grips with the numbers. 

Each of us as community members, as parents, as grandparents, as uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters and yes as cousins, must take ownership of our collective challenges. Every member of Blackfeet Law Enforcement, School District employee, Tribal Council Member and Tribal employee, and HIS employee must own up to our role in a broad based solution. School District Aware Program aims to educate and bring parents into the loop for solutions. Blackfeet Community Hospital needs help in their “Healthy Women – Healthy Babies” initiative where you can be a part of positive change. And we as leaders must recognize that our role is to empower, engage, and support community members to bring about a better future for our young people. They are the ones we will expect to take care of us. Invest in our future.

No comments: