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Northern Arapaho Tribe Sues Opioid Companies

Northern Arapaho Tribe

The Northern Arapaho Tribe on the Wind River Reservation has filed a lawsuit against some of the country’s biggest opioid manufacturers and distributors. 

The tribe says addiction to opioid medications has hit tribal communities harder than any other in the country. The tribe says they've seen increases in child welfare and foster care cases, as well as a need for more health and therapy services.

Northern Arapaho Business Council Co-chair Lee Spoonhunter says the Northern Arapaho Tribe decided to file the lawsuit in hopes of stopping the destruction of lives on the Wind River Reservation. In a press release, he added, “We encourage other Tribes to join us in this important effort.”

According to Indian Health Services data, Native Americans have the highest rate of opioid overdose death rates of any race in the U.S. The complaint filed on Monday alleges that opioid manufacturers hurt the tribe by flooding the market with a known addictive substance and concealing the potential effects from consumers while benefiting from the epidemic financially.

The Northern Arapaho expect to join a multi-state lawsuit against opioid manufacturers in the Northern District of Ohio in collaboration with other tribes and communities.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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