At a community meeting at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation Tuesday, more than 60 participants attempted to come up with a solution to the problem of drugs in the area.
"Silence is not a Chippewa Cree cultural value," the poster for the event reads, and this was the major theme of the meeting; the community needs to speak up and band together if it wants to alleviate the problems on the reservation caused by drug and alcohol abuse.
Bruce Meyers, the organizer of the event, spoke to those in attendance about their role in the meeting.
"There's no expert here," Meyers said. "You are the experts ... . This is a historic event. Your voice is going to change the next generation."
Meyers said one of the main problems with the community is that they would not stand and speak up against drugs and alcohol.
"We're not a community of denial," Meyes said. "We need to stop being a community of enablers. We are part of the problem if we don't speak up."
The people who took part in the meeting were split into groups which worked to answer a series of questions about the problems with drugs and alcohol the community faces. A facilitator in each group kept the conversations going and someone from the group wrote down the ideas the group came up with. The ideas then were presented to the room.
Meyers said the objective was to see what the groups' thoughts, ideas and solutions had in common, and that is what they would use to come up with the final solution.
Stone Child College President Nathaniel St. Pierre said time was running out on coming up with a solution to these community problems.
"It's not just about issues with drugs and alcohol, it's a lot of things that are interconnected ... ," St. Pierre said. "Our reservation is not 100 years old, but I hope it doesn't take another 100 years to get back to where we were, when drugs were not such a big problem."
Issues like poverty, lack of cultural values and family life all play into the problems drugs and alcohol create and they will not cease until these base issues are dealt with, St. Pierre said.
"I would not want anyone to view this as a Rocky Boy problem," St. Pierre said. "It's everywhere."
The community meeting is a forum to explore solutions to these problems, St. Pierre said. He added that many organizations, businesses and parts of the community had representatives at the meeting in order to bring together resources and ideas.
"There is no one group that can come up with a solution or answer," Meyers said.
One of the biggest problems with protecting the community from drugs and alcohol issues is the series of blaming people take part of to make themselves unaccountable, said St. Pierre.
"It's not going to go away by itself," St. Pierre said. "It's going to take hard work. You have to get past the denial that there is a problem."
Ann Johnstone, a teacher at SCC and facilitator of a group at the meeting, said she thought the meeting was a great idea.
"When we do something out here, it's like you're preaching to the choir," Johnstone said. "We need to find out what the community wants."
Meyers said this morning that he is sifting through all the ideas that were presented at the meeting Tuesday and will come up with a comprehensive list, as well as an action plan with the strongest and more popular solution ideas.
"It was a tremendous meeting of the minds," Meyers said.
Meyers also said about 20 people signed up to be part of a committee that will see these solutions through.
"I foresee it might be the making of a drug task force," Meyers said. "We're not going to solve this problem with more government money, more outside intervention, more experts - it has to come from within."