FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

The Natives Issue

What Happened?

I’m a doctor, but I am currently not practicing. I teach pharmacology at the local community college. I grew up on the reservation, in the towns of Heart Butte and Browning. I ended up studying medicine in kind of a roundabout way.
DK
Κείμενο Dr. Ken Crawford
1.1.06

I’m a doctor, but I am currently not practicing. I teach pharmacology at the local community college. I grew up on the reservation, in the towns of Heart Butte and Browning. I ended up studying medicine in kind of a roundabout way. I went to the University of Montana in Missoula because that’s where everybody who went to college from here went. If you were an Indian from Browning going to college, you didn’t go anywhere else. I got a degree in microbiology, and then I went to Montana State University to get a degree in biomedical sciences. Then I earned my M.D. at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. That was four years of torture, and then I had a year of interning in surgery at the University of North Dakota. Eventually I ended up back here. Right now I am teaching and raising a family. I did some research in biophysics last summer. That was fun. It’s been interesting being back here. I was gone for about 20 years. The biggest difference is the social breakdown of the Blackfeet people. Alcoholism, drugs, car accidents, domestic violence—back then, these things were only whispered about. Now it’s like, commonplace. You go to the P&M gas station and stand by the beer corner and watch cold packs of Bud Light suddenly disappear as the hours go by. When a person got drunk and missed work back in the 60s and 70s, it was a shameful process. Now it’s like, “Well, I’m really hungover, I can’t come to work.” “Oh, OK.” And everyone laughs. I wish I knew why things were so different now. A couple of years ago we had Red Ribbon Week, where everyone is supposed to abstain from drugs and alcohol. The community got together and there was a march. Kids and parents carried crosses down the street and we talked in front of the high school students saying, “You’re killing yourselves.” We were having an accident once a week. And I mean, kids were dying. For about three years, we had a funeral every week because of drugs or alcohol. There’s an enormous amount of emotional and physical pain here already. The economics here are what cause this pain. There’s also social and psychological isolation—we’re way up north here. Then there’s this cultural isolation. Since the 60s, we’ve been trying to regain our identity as Blackfeet people. That is a good thing in some ways, but we cannot forget that the whole world is around us. I guess that what changed here was attitude. People stopped caring. They stopped caring because all they can think about is trying to survive. DR. KEN CRAWFORD