Native American teenagers and gangs


Drugs have had a growing influence on Native American reservations for some time now. Our latest KELOLAND News investigation is shedding light on what the FBI calls “the silent crisis in Indian Country.”

Gangs target children because they are the most easily influenced and are searching for belonging. We’re talking with teens who either have managed to stay away from that kind of activity or were a part of it and have gotten out.

Rather than enjoy carefree summer days, nearly all young people living on reservations are forced to grow up fast.

Angela Kennecke: If you wanted to walk out somewhere and find meth or whatever, how easily would it be for you to do it?
Brooklyn Iron Heart:  Pretty easy.  But I wouldn’t.

15-year-old Brooklyn Iron Heart’s mother is in recovery for meth addiction and she doesn’t want to let her down.

“My mom deserves the world and I ain’t going to go and mess my life up and put that on her shoulders. That’s just not right to her; she’s been through so much,” Iron Heart said.

Other kids find themselves facing a choice to join a gang at a very young age, when their families fall apart.

“I started smoking weed.  I was going out to parties; drinking, hanging out with my fellow blood-clan members,” Israel Sharp Fish said.

For Sharp Fish, running turned that around. He’s now part of the St. Francis Cross Country team and his coach is doing his best to keep young lives on track.

“Our young people now are just looking for acceptance and stability,” Coach Steve Her Many Horses said.

“Kids just need to feel the love because people are losing their lives. The kids are the ones that suffer the most because they’re still learning and growing,” Iron Heart said.

Coming up Wednesday night at 10, KELOLAND Investigates looks deeper into gang problems on South Dakota reservations and how the solutions may lie in going back to traditional Native American culture.

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