'How many funerals is it going to take?': Stoney Nakoda members call to ban drug dealers on reserve land
Summer Twoyoungmen says multiple community members have recently died of overdoses
Summer Twoyoungmen says there was a point when she was in the throes of methamphetamine addiction that she no longer saw a point in living.
"A lot of the people I see that I was in addiction with … are gone now," the 25-year-old Stoney Nakoda First Nation member said. "I could have been gone too."
Now, the 25-year-old is calling for her First Nation's chief and council to follow other Indigenous communities and create a bylaw that would see drug dealers banned from reserve land.
On Saturday, after a smudging ceremony and prayer, Twoyoungmen led her grassroots group on a march to the tribal administration building in Morley, Alta., where she and others spoke outside about the impacts addiction has had on their community.
The group calls itself Wácágâ ôkóná'gîcíyâ'bî — a Stoney name which means a shield providing both spiritual and physical protection.
A local bylaw could see charged or convicted drug dealers (including Nation members) banned for a period of three to five years, with conditions placed upon their return.
Several First Nations, including O'Chiese, Sunchild, Samson Cree and Enoch Cree in Alberta, have enacted similar bylaws.
Twoyoungmen said this month the Nation, which consists of the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley bands and has about 4,000 members, has lost at least five members to overdoses including one death this past week.
One of those recently lost, Twoyoungmen said, was her own mother, who she said was found dead at a dealer's home from a heart attack 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?"
Darvette Lefthand, another member of the group, said her children — ages eight and five — recently asked her about the drug epidemic. She said finding the words to explain was hard: "they're just children, they shouldn't know.
"I want this reservation to be a safe place for my girls and other children to grow up," she said.
The group's petition has collected more than 400 signatures from band members, and Twoyoungmen said she plans to present it soon to Stoney's chief and council.
CBC News contacted Stoney Tribal Administration for comment on the calls for a bylaw, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
The first nine months of 2020 saw 750 people in Alberta die from apparent unintentional opioid overdoses. In the first six months of 2020, that's an average of 2.5 deaths every day.
The Stoney Health Services trailer offers free naloxone kits to treat opioid poisoning or overdoses, as well as other harm reduction services.
With files from Helen Pike