FORT TOTTEN, N.D. - The Spirit Lake Tribe has declared a state of emergency in its efforts to combat illegal drugs and drug trafficking on the reservation.
"The use, abuse, sale trade and transport of illegal narcotics and substances has reached an epidemic proportion on the Spirit Lake Tribe reservation," the resolution states.
The resolution, signed late last week by Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson, calls on the tribe to work in cooperation with federal, state and local authorities "to combat drug trafficking on the Spirit Lake Reservation for the purpose of restoring peace and safety of the Tribe."
Spirit Lake may be the first tribe in North Dakota to adopt such a resolution, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis said.
"I think it's a positive step," he said, adding that drugs and drug trafficking have been a problem throughout the state for years.
"It's not just the reservations," he added. "Marijuana, prescription drugs, heroine. It's all over, in Grand Forks, in small towns."
The Spirit Lake resolution does not address potential actions or penalties that might be imposed on those convicted of drug crimes.
However, Davis said banishment from tribal enrollment could be one possible penalty.
"Banishment is being talked about," he said. "Most of our tribes have banishment laws, so the tribe has the authority to banish a member from the tribe for doing bad things."
Davis, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said that tribe is considering tribal banishment as a penalty for dealing methamphetamines, which he said have reached epidemic proportions on the reservation.
The proposed policy is being modeled after one adopted by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
On the state level, Davis has been working with tribal governments and state courts on potential cooperative agreements that would allow law enforcement officers from jurisdiction to cross a tribal border to serve warrants.
"I'm more interested in working with tribes on the extradition of drug dealers, concentrating on federal warrants," he said. "If John Doe has a federal warrant as a drug dealer and he's living on the reservation, would it make sense the tribe to allow the state to come onto the reservation and serve the warrant?
"Right now, legally, the state can't come onto the reservation and pick him up," he said. "I've been trying to convince the tribes to allow this, regardless if those with the warrants are native or non-native."
A recent Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreements Forum in Bismarck focused on that issue, as well as potential cross-deputization agreements, in which county and tribal law enforcement officers are deputized to have jurisdiction across borders, said Northeast Judicial District
Judge Donovan Foughty of Devils Lake, who chairs the North Dakota Tribal-State Court Committee.
"A problem is that folks who are on supervised probation, they do, on occasion, hide out in Indian Country because the state doesn't have the authority to go on the reservation and make arrests," Foughty said.
If Spirit Lake and either Ramsey or Benson counties had cross-deputization agreements, officers from either jurisdiction could serve the warrants.
Spirit Lake Nation is located in Benson County and borders Ramsey County, both of which are part of the Northeast Judicial District.
"A key point to make is if and when we pick up someone, John Doe, on a warrant, we're not going to lock him up and throw away the key," Davis said. "We'll work with the correctional system to help the individual deal with the addiction through treatment programs. So, when you get out, you're a better person."