Beautiful People, Ugly Problem
Meth is not pretty, but it seems to fester in some of the most beautiful places-Indian reservations.
If you travel to Hoopa you'll likely notice the complex beauty of the land. The Valley's steep mountains are blanketed by evergreen trees and jagged rocks. Crisp scents of fir trees with a hint of fog fill the air, and an occasional deer, bear or red-tailed hawk may cross your path.
Hoopa by land mass is the largest Indian reservation in California, one of the first three established in the state circa the gold rush. Hoopa by population is tiny. The most recent census undertaking in 2010 tallied 3,041 residents with 2,506 identifying as American Indian. Although the numbers are small, Hoopa has long been the hub of the Lower portions of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. It borders the Yurok Reservation to the west and Karuk ancestral territory to the northeast. The Klamath and the Trinity River flow through the reservation and converge on the Yurok Reservation.
By the way, folks here identify themselves by where they are located on the river. Most consider themselves "River People" some being from upriver and some from downriver depending on where you live, where you spend your time or where your family is from.
What a beautiful way to be-living on the river sniffing fir trees, watching wildlife and visiting with your friends up and down river.
Most of the people match the scenery-beautiful. But many struggle with ugly addictions to alcohol, heroin, marijuana and most prevalent, methamphetamine.
I don't have statistics to back this up, yet, but I estimate 100 percent of families here are affected by methamphetamine abuse. It could be a mother, a father, a brother or sister. It could be a teacher, a co-worker, a grandmother or grandfather. It could be a child.
We plan to explore how economic, environmental and historical factors correlate with substance abuse on the Hoopa reservation. Along the way we will learn what is being done, or not done, to address the problem. Is the problem shrinking, growing or morphing into a new problem? Conversations on camera with addicts, health care professionals, mental health care professionals, law enforcement and community members will help shed light on the problem, its origins and how to fix it.
Stay tuned for a jam packed story in the months to come.