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Lac du Flambeau Tribe seeks millions more in federal money to fight drug issues

Lac du Flambeau Tribal Vice President George Thompson testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
House Appropriations Committee/Youtube
Lac du Flambeau Tribal Vice President George Thompson testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.

The Lac du Flambeau Tribe says the federal government should be providing millions more in funding to combat the Tribe’s drug issues and their consequences.

Over the last six years, the 11-member Tribal police department has made more than 2,000 arrests. Half have been drug-related.

This month, Tribal Vice President George Thompson testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. asking for increased funding to fight drug issues.

He said the Tribal police department is stretched too thin.

“I can’t speak enough about how grateful I am for the law enforcement that we have in our community right now,” Thompson said. “They went from your standard patrol people to drug enforcement agencies.”

The Vilas County Sheriff’s Office responds to roughly the same number of calls each year, compared to Tribal police. But Vilas County has three times as many officers on staff.

Thompson told the congressional committee that the federal government should be sending millions more into the reservation to fight drug issues.

“We’re starting to see more interaction between cartels targeting Tribes and bringing this stuff directly to the reservation,” he said. “To combat crime and addiction, the Tribal government subsidizes federal programs with millions of dollars that the BIA, IHS, and EPA accounts should cover as part of the federal trust responsibility.”

Drug addiction has also had a major impact on housing.

“We were at a point, with the amount of drug use, it damn-near bankrupted our housing authority,” Thompson said.

He told the committee that federal laws are written in a way that inhibits federal funding from being used to clean up drug houses on the reservation.

“It costs the Tribe at least four to eight thousand dollars to clean and test a meth-contaminated home. We are losing our housing inventory due to drugs. This is causing overcrowding and domestic and child abuse,” Thompson said.

In addition to increased funding, Thompson wants Congress to rewrite the law to allow for clean-up funding to flow more easily.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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