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Media Articles - 1980s

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14 January 2003
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Tribes Seek Bellmon's Support for Drug Rehabilitation Center

The Oklahoman
August 30, 1989

Indian tribes leasing land for a proposed drug rehabilitation center near Newkirk will ask Gov. Henry Bellmon today to sign a proclamation of support, a tribal member said Tuesday.

Virginia Combrink, chairwoman of the Tonkawa tribe, said the Save Our Society proclamation asks for support of the Narconon New Life Center at Chilocco as well as other drug rehabilitation centers.

She denied the group was a promotional tool for the proposed Narconon center, which has drawn opposition from local residents because of its association with the Church of Scientology.

Instead, she said, the proclamation is an attempt to draw attention to the growing problem of illegal drug use in the state.

"We're just tired of our families being torn apart with drugs," said Combrink, whose son died earlier this year of drug effects.

"We've been trying to get rehabilitation centers. People arguing that they don't need them or want them, I don't understand why."

The SOS group was unsuccessful Tuesday in getting District Attorney Joe Wideman to sign the proclamation.

About 50 people showed up for a rally on the steps of the Kay County Courthouse before four others, including William Mahojah, chairman of the Kaw tribe, met with Wideman for about 30 minutes.

"We were hoping he would support us, but when we got to his office he told us he could not sign it," she said.

Wideman told The Oklahoman he supports all groups interested in fighting crime but does not feel it is appropriate to align himself with a particular group by becoming a member or signing a petition or proclamation.

"I thanked them very much, but as we have always done, we stay autonomous of organizations along this line," he said. "It's just like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). I think it's a very good organization. I've monitored them for some time, but I've never been a member of MADD or signed a proclamation for them."

Combrink said the SOS group is composed of members of the Tonkawa, Kaw, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria and Pawnee tribes. The group, as the Chilocco Development Authority, is leasing 165 acres of the old Chilocco Indian School to Narconon.

Narconon plans to open a 75-bed center this fall. But Newkirk town leaders have asked state officials to review carefully the proposal and the facility's ties with the Church of Scientology, which they call a cult.

A certificate of need was issued in January and renovation of several buildings on the grounds is under way. But the facility still must be licensed and certified by state officials.