Group Promotes Narconon Support
September 8, 1991
A new group is being formed to tell members of five tribes that own an old Indian school to help a substance abuse center located on the grounds obtain state licensing.
M.M. Chouteau, president of the Chilocco Native American Council, says his group plans to distribute a newsletter to tribal members, as well as lobby state officials and legislators to seek support for Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.
"We want to try to assist Narconon in obtaining the state license so they can pursue this drug center," Chouteau said.
Chouteau is well known in north-central Oklahoma, largely because of his tenure as superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs agency at Pawnee from 1975 until he retired in 1982.
Because the Pawnee agency has jurisdiction over the five tribes that own the Chilocco school, Chouteau knows many of the Kaw, Tonkawa, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria and Pawnee leaders.
While at the BIA, Chouteau worked to get the Chilocco school and its 167-acre campus for the tribes.
Chouteau, who was Kaw tribal chairman from 1982 through 1986, now lives in Fort Gibson and is one of about 12 people making up the newly formed group.
Narconon Chilocco has been accepting patients since February 1990, but its treatment program has yet to receive certification by state officials.
The Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is expected to hold a certification hearing next month on Narconon Chilocco's request for certification.
No date or site has been set for the meeting, which will be in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, Narconon Chilocco is allowed by court order to treat up to 40 patients at one time. Narconon is seeking permission to operate a 75-bed facility.
Eventually, Narconon officials say, the center could be expanded to treat 10 times that number.
Chouteau said he is concerned that tribal members are not more interested in helping Narconon Chilocco, which has a 25-year lease at the Chilocco school, located about six miles north of Newkirk.
Lease payments are paid by Narconon Chilocco to the Chilocco Development Authority, which is made up of representatives of the five tribes which were given the school in 1984.
Tonkawa tribal leaders recently passed a resolution supporting Narconon Chilocco, but the Ponca and Kaw tribes have withheld support because of questions over late payments and the accuracy of those payments, as well as concern the center, while open for business for more than 18 months, does not yet have state approval as required in the lease.
The Kaws have proposed to the development authority that it negate its lease with Narconon Chilocco because the center did not get certification within a reasonable time. No action has been taken on the request.
Chouteau criticizes the CDA for not working with Narconon Chilocco to obtain its state license and certification.
"They're not working with Narconon," he said. "We're at an impasse. The CDA board should be helping Narconon to try to obtain their state license. "
Bob Chapman, CDA chairman and chairman of the Pawnee tribe, said board members are staying out of the conflict because they consider it a state issue.
"We've maintained all along that it's between Narconon and the state," he said. "They need to get this settled with the state. "
Chouteau said some tribal members based their opposition to Narconon Chilocco on rumors and fears because the organization has ties with the Church of Scientology.
"A lot of people don't know the facts about Narconon, only what they hear and rumors, and those have been adverse to Narconon," he said.
Chouteau said he originally was against Narconon Chilocco, but changed his mind after visiting the center and reading books and material on Narconon International, which operates a 25-bed site in Los Angeles and the Church of Scientology.
"I just heard `Scientology' and `cult' and I was opposed to it," he said.
"But after I got up there and met with the people ... worked with them ... read their books and saw what they were trying to do, I changed my mind.
"I've read some of their books and mainly it is a science. It's trying to improve your mind.
Some have criticized Narconon's treatment program that relies heavily on saunas and vitamin drinks, but Chouteau says, "The program is fine." "We just want to expand it if we can get our state license," he said.
Chouteau praised Narconon Chilocco for renovating buildings at the campus, and said the organization deserved support from tribal members because it already has spent about $3 million in improvements.
Narconon officials have said that being limited to 40 patients instead of the 75 it calculated on treating is costing about $90,000 a week.
Patients pay about $15,000 for a three-month program.
Narconon applied for certification last summer after state health department officials sought a court injunction to shut it down because it had been operating several months without a license.
Last fall, Narconon officials claimed the mental health department was biased against its Chilocco facility and obtained a court order preventing the state agency from taking further action on the certification.
Mental health board members hired a Tulsa psychiatrist to review the program. That report is expected to be given to board members later this month.
Board members planned to act on Narconon's certification request last month, but Narconon's lawyers asked for time to appeal a judge's ruling that could allow the mental health department to be involved in the certification process.
"We hope this mental health board will not look at this project as a cult of Scientology," Chouteau said. "I would like for them to look at it as professional people and not be biased in their opinion but look at what good it can do for the people in Oklahoma."