Mexican cartel reportedly flooded Montana with fentanyl, meth by targeting Native

Mexican cartels have flooded Montana with fentanyl and meth – by setting up operations on Indian reservations, where law enforcement is scarce, according to a report.

“They know who to choose,” Stephanie Iron Shooter, the American Indian health director for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News.

“Just like any other prey-predator situation — that’s how it is.”

The drug pushers have found that the notoriously deadly fentanyl goes for nearly 20 times the price in remote Big Sky Country, where its population of 1.2 million is spread out across 150,000 square miles of rugged terrain. 

They will initially target Native Americans by giving away an initial supply of drugs, transforming them into addicts, former Drug Enforcement Administration investigator Stacy Zinn said.

“The cartel will send out their advance team or individuals to get to know who’s distributing small amounts on this reservation, who can we get our claws into,” said Zinn, who initially investigated Mexican cartels from Texas before following their trail to Montana.

“And then when they do that, then they own them. We’ve seen that over and over.”

The vast remoteness of Montana works in their favor — law enforcement already struggled to cover their wide-reaching territories.

The overdose death rate among Native Americans was more than twice that of white Montana residents in the decade leading up to 2020. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana

Another layer of difficulty is added when the trafficking trade takes place on Native American land, where local and state officials are barred from arresting tribal members and tribal forces — which are underfunded and short-staffed — are largely prohibited from arresting outsiders on the reservation.

The legal loophole provides security for the cartel to operate in Montana, which is only made more appealing for the traffickers thanks to the demand for drugs.

A counterfeit fentanyl pill that can be made for less than 25 cents in Mexico sells for $3 to $5 in cities like Seattle and Denver where drug markets are more established, but up to $100 in remote parts of Montana, NBC reported.

“Right now it’s as if fentanyl is raining on our reservation,” said Marvin Weatherwax, Jr.

The perfect storm makes the cartels’ 1,300-mile journey from the southern border more than worth it.

“The profits are just out of this world,” Zinn told the outlet.

The drug crisis has fallen heavily on Native American communities, which account for less than 7% of Montana’s population, Census data shows.

The overdose death rate among Native Americans was more than twice that of white Montana residents in the decade leading up to 2020.

Cartels target Native American reservations because of their limited law enforcement. AFP via Getty Images

Between 2017 and 2020, Montana’s opioid overdose death rate almost tripled — with nearly 8 per 100,000 succumbing to drugs in that year, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services

“Right now it’s as if fentanyl is raining on our reservation,” Marvin Weatherwax, Jr., who serves on the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and represents the 15th district in the Montana House of Representatives, told NBC.

Some desperate tribes have tried to fight back despite their limited resources.

The Northern Cheyenne tribe formed its own vigilante group, the People’s Camp, to fight back against the surge in violent crime and drug trafficking plaguing its community.

The tribe filed a 2022 lawsuit against the Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs, alleging that the federal government had breached its obligation to keep residents on the reservation safe by failing to provide adequate law enforcement officers.

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