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Regional Perspectives

The dynamics of drug trafficking and abuse within Indian Country vary greatly by region. The following regional summaries provide overviews of the current drug situation on federally recognized reservations situated within OCDETF regions,10 highlighting significant regional trends, law enforcement concerns, and public health issues regarding drug trafficking and abuse. This section is organized by the number of federally recognized reservations in each region, in descending order.

Pacific OCDETF Region

Figure 4. Federally recognized Native American reservations within the Pacific OCDETF Region.

Map of the Pacific OCDETF Region showing federally recognized Native American reservations.

Source: Bureau of Indian Affairs; U.S. Census Bureau.

Key Findings

Pacific OCDETF Region Indian Country Fast Facts
States Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, northern and central California
Number of Reservations 395
Population on Reservations 215,117
Area (Square Miles) 12,228.83
Per Capita Income $11,090-$19,767
Poverty Level 16.4-25.0%
Unemployment 11.0-14.2%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

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Drug Threat Overview

Methamphetamine and marijuana are the illicit drugs most widely available and commonly abused by Native Americans residing on reservations; their abuse is of great concern to tribal leaders and law enforcement officials. Marijuana is produced at cannabis cultivation sites on several reservations in the region by Mexican DTOs, Native American criminal groups, and Caucasian traffickers. Diverted pharmaceuticals also are of great concern to tribal officials, since their distribution and abuse on reservations in the region are increasing. Cocaine and heroin are available in limited quantities on some reservations. Most of the drugs available in the region are transported to reservations from nearby cities by Native American traffickers. However, high-potency Canadian marijuana and MDMA are transported onto reservations in the region from Canada by DTOs that use remote areas of reservations as entry points to smuggle the drugs into the United States. Native American traffickers are the primary distributors of illicit drugs on reservations in the region.


Mexican DTOs actively engage in drug trafficking on reservations throughout the Pacific Region. Mexican DTOs are active on reservations throughout the region and engage in activities ranging from drug manufacturing and distribution to operating stash sites. Mexican DTOs operating on reservations in the region primarily distribute methamphetamine and produce and distribute marijuana. Marijuana production is a particular problem on some reservations in the region.

A number of trafficking groups, other than Mexican DTOs, operate on reservations within the region; some simultaneously operate on several reservations. Caucasian and Native American criminal groups, street gangs, and OMGs distribute retail-level quantities of assorted illicit drugs on various reservations throughout the region.

Street gangs are present on a number of reservations in the Pacific Region and engage in a host of criminal activities, including retail-level drug distribution.11 Street gang members distribute retail-level quantities of methamphetamine and marijuana on a number of reservations in the Pacific Region; they also engage in other criminal activity, including assault, burglary, and theft.

Most street gangs operating on reservations in the region are local gangs with no national affiliation to national-level street gangs. Most gangs operating on reservations in the region are local gangs composed of young people from the reservations who emulate national-level gangs. The number of active gang members on reservations throughout the region is limited. Some of the local gangs reportedly operating in the region are Indian Power, Mean Violent Natives Organization, Native Gangster Bloods, New HUD Family Gang, and West Side Crip Villains. Additionally, nationally recognized gangs such as 18th Street, MS 13, Norteņos, and Sureņos have been identified on some reservations in the region.


Drug production on reservations in the region is generally limited to marijuana production. Most of the marijuana available on reservations in the region is from Mexico; some high-potency marijuana from Canada is also available. However, significant amounts of marijuana are produced by Mexican DTOs on many reservations in the region. Native American criminal groups and Caucasian traffickers also cultivate cannabis and produce marijuana on reservations in the region.


Native American traffickers are the primary transporters of illicit drugs to reservations in the region. Native American traffickers generally travel to cities near reservations in private vehicles to obtain retail-level quantities of illicit drugs for distribution within Native American communities. Non-Native American traffickers also supply illicit drugs to reservations; they typically transport multiple drugs in one shipment to reservations and provide them to local distributors, sometimes remaining on a reservation until the drugs are sold. Non-Native American traffickers typically transport larger quantities of drugs ranging from ounce to multipound quantities.

Traffickers exploit reservations in the region that are near the U.S.-Canada border to smuggle drugs from Canada into the United States. Canada-based DTOs, mostly Asian, transport high-potency Canadian marijuana and MDMA from Canada into the United States through reservations along the U.S.-Canada border. Most of the drugs are intended for distribution in drug markets throughout the Pacific Region, but some are provided to local distributors for distribution in Native American communities.


Tribal members are the primary retail-level drug distributors on reservations throughout the region. Members of Native American communities in the region serve as the primary retail-level distributors on reservations. They commonly distribute marijuana and methamphetamine; they also distribute other illicit drugs, but to a much lesser extent. Native American traffickers typically deal in ounce quantities of marijuana. Native American traffickers also generally deal in gram to multigram quantities of methamphetamine; ounce amounts are occasionally seized by law enforcement officials. Additionally, Native American traffickers in the region occasionally distribute small quantities of cocaine and heroin. They commonly use casinos, hotels, and parking lots as retail distribution sites on reservations.


Methamphetamine and marijuana are the most widely available and frequently abused illicit drugs in Native American communities; however, law enforcement officials report that the abuse of diverted pharmaceuticals is rapidly increasing on some reservations. Methamphetamine and marijuana are the primary illicit substances of abuse on most reservations in the region. TEDS data indicate that the number of American Indians seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse at the time of treatment admission increased overall from 26.6 percent of admissions in 2002 to 37.5 percent in 2006, the latest year for which such data are available. Additionally, the number of American Indians seeking treatment for marijuana abuse at the time of treatment admission remained stable at relatively high levels between 2002 and 2006. The percentage of cocaine-related treatment admissions also remained relatively stable between 2002 and 2006; heroin-related admissions steadily decreased. According to TEDS data, the number of Native Americans seeking treatment for pharmaceutical abuse increased overall between 2002 and 2005, but declined sharply in 2006. (See Table 7.) Officials are not certain as to the reason for this reported decrease, particularly when recent law enforcement reporting indicates that pharmaceutical abuse is increasing on many reservations in the region. Abusers typically obtain diverted pharmaceutical drugs though doctor-shopping, theft from individuals, and prescription fraud.

Table 7. Primary Illicit Drug Mentions by American Indians Seeking Treatment for Abuse in the Pacific Region, 2002-2006

Drug 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Cocaine 15.3% 14.7% 14.8% 14.7% 14.4%
Heroin 12.7% 11.0% 10.8% 9.2% 8.8%
Marijuana 45.5% 44.5% 44.9% 45.6% 44.0%
Methamphetamine 26.6% 27.7% 26.6% 29.7% 37.5%
Pharmaceuticals 14.6% 14.1% 15.2% 15.7% 6.6%

Source: Treatment Episode Data Set 2006.

End Notes

10. The nine OCDETF Regions in the United States are the Florida/Caribbean, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, New England, New York/New Jersey, Pacific, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central Regions. Because no federally recognized reservations exist in the Mid-Atlantic Region, a Mid-Atlantic regional summary is not included herein.
11. While many of these gangs claim affiliation with national gang structures such as Bloods and Crips, the majority are hybrid gang structures that have little or no affiliation with the national gang other than the names, symbolism, and representing style.

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