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Fond du Lac Band Files Civil Lawsuits Against Opioid Distributors


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

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
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

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
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."

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