CLOQUET, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa today filed a civil lawsuit against the distributors of opioid prescription drugs, alleging they have engaged in an ongoing civil conspiracy to cause addiction for profit “in reckless disregard of the consequences to Native American people.”
The lawsuit was filed in Minnesota’s Carlton County District Court. The 47-page complaint names eight opioid distributors. The Band has not yet determined the dollar amount of damages they will seek.
“Opioids are sapping the lifeforce from our community, leaving behind destruction and despair, and it’s time we made our voices heard,” said Kevin DuPuis, chairman of the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee. “Each time we prepare another young person for burial or are forced to send more children to foster care, it reminds us that we are paying with our lives and livelihoods for the actions of those who value profits over human lives.”
Opioid addiction is widely considered to be the nation’s worst public health crisis in the 21st century. In the U.S., an average of 115 people die every day from opioid overdoses, and every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.
While the opioid crisis has hit every community in the nation, tribal communities suffer disproportionately to their numbers. In Minnesota, American Indians make up 1.5 percent of the total population, but they are almost six times more likely to die of a drug overdose than whites. Many Native Americans lack opioid addiction treatment services in their communities.
DuPuis added that the Band and other Native American communities are often excluded from major initiatives by state, municipal, and county governments in their attempts to remedy the opioid crisis. Lacking comparable criminal prosecutorial and investigative resources, the Band’s only recourse is civil action.
Native communities have also lacked access to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration database known as ARCOS, which identifies opioid delivery in states and counties, potentially providing the basis for criminal litigation.
Across the nation, other Native American communities are also bringing litigation against the opioid industry, including the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.
About Fond du Lac Band Lake Superior Chippewa
The Fond du Lac Band is one of six Chippewa Indian Bands in the state of Minnesota. The Fond du Lac Reservation was established by the La Pointe Treaty of 1854. Archaeologists, however, maintain that ancestors of the present-day Chippewa (Ojibwe) have resided in the Great Lakes area since 800 A.D. Today, the Band includes over 4,200 members. The Ojibwe name for the Fond du Lac Reservation is "Nagaajiwanaang," which means "where the water stops."