How a Pharma Giant Flooded the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation With Opioids
July 31, 2020
It was easy for Jana Wolf Necklace to get painkillers on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. She developed an opioid addiction while working at her dad’s bar in Fort Yates, the main town on the North Dakota side of the tribe’s land. Eventually, she started trading alcohol to customers for pills they obtained from the reservation’s federally-run Indian Health Services pharmacy.
“There was all kinds — whatever you wanted was around here, and a lot of it,” Wolf Necklace, 43, recalled. “People would come and they would have big bottles. I would keep track of who got what, when they were gonna get their refills.”
The pills flowed freely for at least a decade starting in the early 2000s, according to Wolf Necklace and several other members of the tribe who spoke with VICE News for our podcast “Painkiller: America’s Fentanyl Crisis.” They said it was normal for tribe members to visit the pharmacy to get prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers, then swap those pills for alcohol, illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, or cash.