Watchlist: Mexican drug cartel targets six Native American reservations in Montana

02.15.2024 Kamiah Koch Watchlist


By Kamiah Koch  

Social media/digital journalist

“It’s as if fentanyl is raining on our reservation,” Blackfeet Nation Tribal leader Marvin Weatherwax Jr. said in an NBC interview.

NBC News visited the Blackfeet Nation’s Tribal Reservation earlier this year to report on the Mexican cartel’s increased presence on Montana’s six Tribal reservations.

NBC reporter Cynthia McFadden says the cartel is suspected to be selling to communities and using their homes in remote areas as distribution hubs. Weatherwax says they have married into the community and now have become a problem that won’t go away.

“These are transnational criminal organizations,” Montana’s U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslivich said to McFadden. “They are sophisticated people who have a lot of resources and are as dangerous as they come.”

According to NBC, the further away from the Mexican border, the more expensive the drugs become. It’s reported that Mexican cartels can make a single fentanyl pill for less than 25 cents and sell it on Tribal reservations for more than $100.

A recent bust on the reservation resulted in the seizure of more than 700,000 fentanyl pills, becoming the largest drug bust in Montana history.

Stacy Zinn, a former director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operations in Montana, said the state and Tribal law enforcement responses are still limited.

“These reservations don’t have enough Tribal police to protect them,” Zinn said. “Very, very few (Tribal police) and there (are) hundreds and hundreds of acres of land. The nefarious people, the ones committing crimes, know this.”

Tribal leaders from Montana’s six Tribes said that the Mexican cartel brings other crimes such as sexual assault, human trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence.

In 2022, the Blackfeet Nation declared a state of emergency after 17 people overdosed in just one week.

According to Weatherwax, the drug problem on his reservation is so serious, it is wiping out an entire generation.

You can watch this NBC News video for yourself at