A September 25 summit meeting at Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower brought tribal, county and state officials together to collaborate on ways to address the crisis facing Indian children in Minnesota, according to Bois Forte Chairman Kevin Leecy.
Leecy said the crisis is showing up in public health statistics that paint an appalling picture. In a news release announcing the summit, Leecy reported that Minnesota’s Indian babies are twice as likely as non-Indian babies to die before their first birthday. They are four times more likely to live in poverty than the state’s white children. A full 53 percent of Native children are living below poverty.
While only about 3 percent of infants born in the state are Native, American Indian newborns account for 28 percent of those born addicted to drugs. Experts agreed that the recent spike in opioid abuse statewide is partly to blame for these numbers, but they say the situation in Indian country has been dire for years.
Tribal representatives expressed the hope that a Task Force on the Protection of Children recently appointed by Governor Dayton would include Native representatives to help address the serious health disparities that continue to exist between American Indian and non-Indian children statewide.
“Taken as a whole, the situation of Indian children has reached crisis proportions, and that means the future of all Indian Country is in peril.”
Chairman Kevin Leecy
Listen to the Minnesota Native News report on the story here.