Natives Against Heroin Take A Walk In Red Lake
A police escort and an entrance by the busloads is one way to make a statement. Hundreds gathered at the Red Lake Hospital fields to put their best foot forward in a walk to fight against drugs, specifically heroin.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there have been zero heroin deaths in Red Lake between 2000-2015, but the problem is still present on the reservation.
“It is deeply rooted in our community and it affects all generations,” said Red Lake Natives Against Heroin Co-Chief Thomas Barrett.
Barrett turned his life around after a five-year drug addiction. He’s been sober for three and a half years and hopes to reach anyone affected by this drug epidemic, including drug dealers or people fighting an addiction.
“This walk signifies our unity as a reservation to stand up against drug abuse in our community,” said Barrett.
Natives Against Heroin stretches beyond the Red Lake reservation, as many came from Leech Lake, Fond Du Lac and White Earth to show support. These men want to set a good example for young native men.
“We say no to drugs,” said Montana Roy of White Earth Men’s Treatment Center. “When they ask you for drugs, remember to say ‘gaawin’ – it means just say no.”
The roughly mile walk was full of people from all ages with powerful messages and ended at the pow wow grounds.
For Wanda Blue of Lower Sioux in Morton, Minnesota, the battle of a heroin addiction is a personal one. She lost her daughter, Valerie, just 11 months ago. She’s sharing Valerie’s story to show others they have nothing to be ashamed of if they have a problem.
“It’s up to every community member, within your own homes first, with your own families,” said Blue. “Then you start reaching out and you start helping other people, but don’t turn them away.”
Barrett says this drug issue doesn’t define Red Lake.
“We believe our culture will help us overcome this drug epidemic,” said Barrett. “We’ve always been strong, resilient people and we’re going to fight this and we’re going to beat this.”
For more information on Red Lake Chemical Health Programs visit http://www.rlnn.org/MinorSponsors/RLChemHealthMain.html.