LODGE GRASS — Crow tribal officials Tuesday night pressed for increased law enforcement presence to police the sprawling reservation, speaking to about 60 residents of Lodge Grass days after a triple homicide shook the small town of about 400.
Several local delegates to the tribe’s legislature joined Tribal Chairman Alvin “A.J” Not Afraid in strongly condemning an epidemic of meth and related violence plaguing the Crow Reservation, which they blamed for the Friday shooting that left three tribal members from Lodge Grass dead and two other people injured.
“There’s still lots of respectable people in the Lodge Grass community, and this event has tarnished us,” Not Afraid said.
The town hall meeting took place less than a day after an early-morning fire destroyed the one-story house where tribal officials have said a meth-related dispute ended in the killing of three people who entered the home.
The fire, which started late Monday night or early Tuesday, was reported to the Big Horn County rural fire department at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
It happened during a 9 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew imposed by tribal authorities following the shooting that remains in effect.
“I think that each one of us is affected one way or another, either by a family member or a friend” on meth, Tribal Sen. Tyson GrosVentre, whose district includes Lodge Grass, told the crowd. “It’s getting to the point where it’s getting out of control. They’ve got guns, they steal from their family to get money.”
He was joined in condemning the reservation’s drug problem by another local representative, Sen. Tom Yellowtail, who introduced a proposal to enter into negotiations with state and federal agencies and Montana’s congressional delegation to request resources to add officers to the tribe’s police department.
Yellowtail said that at times, only two or three officers are on duty to patrol the roughly 2.2-million acre reservation. If an arrest is made, he added, that leaves only one or two law enforcement officials while the arresting officer drives the suspect to the detention facility in Lame Deer, located on the adjacent Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
“The legislature is your voice,” Yellowtail told the residents. “But we can’t speak for you if no one comes to our meetings, if not one talks to us.”
Not Afraid also focused on growing law enforcement presence on the reservation and suggested diverting more money from the tribe’s general fund to that end. He said he had spoken with Gov. Steve Bullock about possibly bringing the National Guard in to the reservation to assist what he characterized as meth-fueled violence on the reservation, where a 9 p.m. curfew remains in place following last week’s shooting.
But he also urged increased community involvement in combating crime, asking more residents to join a community watch task force his administration has begun organizing in response to the slayings. He added that the tribe needs to be compassionate toward those addicted to meth and other drugs.
“The end result is rehab,” he said. “The end result is a life for those people, because they are Crow.”
FBI Senior Supervisory Agent Travis Burrows said the investigation the agency is conducting into the shootings was ongoing, with no suspects publicly identified or arrested, but that the FBI was not investigating the fire. He did not know the cause of the fire.
The Big Horn County Sheriff's Office said any investigation into the fire would be led by the county fire department. The county's fire chief, Matt Redden, was responding to a wildfire on Tuesday and was unavailable to comment.