Here in the foothills of the lush Ozark Mountains, where the Cherokee Nation re-formed its government after U.S. soldiers marched members of the tribe out of the South in the 1830s, people say the removal of children from their Native homes is the most troubling part of the opioid crisis.
The earliest evidence that the opioid epidemic had seeped into Indian Country came in 2014, with a spike in the number of children taken into tribal custody because their parents were addicted to prescription painkillers.
Nearly three-quarters of the hundreds of Cherokee children who were taken from their parents because of opioid addiction have been placed in non-Native homes, because there weren’t enough tribal families who were able to take them in.
“We’ve almost lost a generation of Cherokee children,” former Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree told Stateline at the tribe’s government headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Source: Pew Stateline