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Media Articles - 1990s

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14 January 2003
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Letter to the Editor: Why is Narconon still here?

Ponca City News
October 20, 1996

For more than six years the staff of the Narconon Chilocco drug and alcohol rehabilitation program have worked hard to continue to provide services to those individuals in need of drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. Our clientele comes from all walks of life from all across the country, including members of the Kaw, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria, Tonkawa and Pawnee tribes, and the co-owners of the Chilocco campus.

At a time when the increasing drug and alcohol problem has hit a new level of national media attention and the war on drugs (or lack of it in the past four years) has become one of the main campaign issues in the upcoming presidential election, it appears that some of the current leadership of these five tribes seem to have lost sight of the true value of the services Narconon is offering to their own people.

Narconon may not have met some people's expectations but it isn't due to a lack of commitment and effort on Narconon's part. Since the inception of Narconon Chilocco over 122 Native Americans from the five local tribes have enrolled and participated in Narconon's rehabilitation program at no cost to the individuals or the tribes. Many of the Native Americans that have come to Narconon were refused admittance in existing Oklahoma treatment centers due to lack of bed space or because they were inhalant abusers. A number of these individuals are alive today because they got the help they so desperately needed when they needed it. Yet this fact has been continually overlooked and even publicly poo-pooed by some of the current leadership of the tribes.

Criticism based solely on rumors and at times outright lies about dreamed-up lease violations by Narconon have overshadowed the critical importance of saving a life. In all the trials and tribulations of developing Narconon Chilocco the true purpose and value of what Narconon actually brought to the now defunct Chilocco Development Authority in September of 1988 has been ignored by a few vocal opponents and even maliciously attacked by some of the very people whose relatives have benefited by participating in the Narconon program. Narconon has successfully weathered some incredible barriers to its development over the past 30 years solely and only because as an organization we are completely committed to helping people whose lives and families are being destroyed by substance abuse.

One may ask why is Narconon still here after all the legal battles, the antagonism towards some of the staff's religious beliefs, manufactured fines and made-up lease violations levied by some within the BIA who have demonstrated that they do not act in their official capacity with the tribal peoples' best interests at heart. The answer is simple: Narconon, its staff and its supporters believe that a life is the most valuable asset there is in this universe and one of the main threats to people from all nations today is drug and alcohol addiction. All one has to do is to think of how many intelligent talented and artistic people they have known who are not with us today because drug or alcohol addiction took that life. How many future tribal leaders never had the chance to solve some of the various social problems facing tribes today because alcohol or drug effect on crippled their minds at an early age or killed them.

We do not in any way negate the importance of solid economic development for the tribes. We recognize that economic development is the vehicle to the eventual self-governance and security against termination for Indian tribes. We are firmly in support of this and are committed to do what we can within our capacity as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization to help this movement. But if one honestly asks oneself the question: What is the most important raw resource that is a vital necessity to bringing about that economic development and eventual self-governance and tribal viability? One will see the answer clearly. It's not just a matter of how much money is in the coffer.

It's a matter of people. It's the people -- honest, educated, sober and alive who will be the future leaders that will figure out how to generate sound and lasting economic development. It's the people who can think and who can hopefully live long enough to gain the knowledge and understanding needed to cure the social ills facing Native American tribes today. The ugly truth is that today many of those future problem solvers are stagnant or dead because they fell victim to drug and alcohol addiction.

I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and our inherent right as Americans to have and voice our opinions for or against any issue so when I see that some of the loudest opponents of the Narconon project happen to be in denial of their own drug and/or alcohol problem I can understand why they are opposed to Narconon. I feel sorry for them and hope they get the help they need before they, too, become a casualty to addiction.

It is a sad reality that sometimes the "War on Drugs" is not fought only on the drug pushers' and cartels' battleground. Far too often ignorance, greed, dishonesty and vested interests escalate this war and distract us from protecting our most valuable and precious asset from the perils of addiction - life. And more importantly, protecting the lives of our children and future leaders for therein rests the eventual solution to many of our social and economic problems. It's a fact. Drug and alcohol addiction is taking too many of our future leaders away from us and that is why Narconon is still here and why we will remain.

Gary W. Smith
Narconon Chilocco