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West Central OCDETF Region

Figure 6. Federally recognized Native American reservations within the West Central OCDETF Region.

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

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

Key Findings

West Central OCDETF Region Indian Country Fast Facts
States Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
Number of Reservations 49
Population on Reservations 223,382
Area (Square Miles) 47,572.59
Per Capita Income $8,480-$17,391
Poverty Level 13.7-42.3%
Unemployment 5.5-18.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

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Drug Threat Overview

Marijuana and methamphetamine are the primary illicit drugs of abuse on reservations in the West Central Region; other illicit drugs are also abused to varying degrees. Mexican DTOs supply wholesale and midlevel quantities of marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine to Native American, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups for distribution in Native American communities. Native American and non-Native American drug traffickers also travel to source locations in and outside the region in privately owned vehicles to obtain midlevel and retail-level quantities of illicit drugs for distribution on reservations.


Mexican DTOs are the predominant wholesale suppliers of most illicit drugs available on reservations throughout the region. Mexican DTOs are the primary wholesale suppliers of illicit drugs to Native American criminal groups that distribute drugs within Native American communities throughout the region. Additionally, Mexican traffickers and the Native American criminal groups they supply use a variety of communication technologies to facilitate their drug operations, including cellular phones, trac phones, scanners, and text messaging.

Local street gangs serve as retail-level drug distributors on some reservations in the region.13 Local street gangs are active on some reservations in the West Central Region; most are small, local gangs that seek to emulate the gang cultures their members see in the media or observe during trips away from the reservations to attend school or visit family members. Also, some gang members have formed associations with gang members on other reservations in the region and with gang members in non-Native American communities in North and South Dakota. In addition to drug distribution, some gang members engage in property crimes (tagging, theft, and arson), violent crimes (threats, intimidation, physical assault, and sexual assault), and weapons offenses on reservations.

Methamphetamine Trafficking Group Dismantled on the Wind River Reservation

In May 2006 the DEA Denver Field Division in Wyoming, along with state and local officials, announced the dismantling of a major DTO with ties to Mexico that had been operating on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The 2-year investigation resulted in 53 indictments, 43 arrests, and the seizure of more than 20 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 weapons, and $100,000 in cash. The organization had been distributing over 7 pounds of methamphetamine per month.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration.


Native American drug traffickers are the primary transporters of illicit drugs to reservations in the region. Native American traffickers typically travel to urban areas in private vehicles to obtain supplies of illicit drugs, generally from Mexican traffickers, for distribution on reservations. In obtaining drug supplies, Native American traffickers generally travel to major drug markets in the West Central Region.


Drug distribution and gang activity on reservations in the region often occur at reservation events and casinos. Native American, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups often distribute illicit drugs at various tribal events and social gatherings such as fairs, music concerts, Native Days, Pow-Wows, rodeos, summer motorcycle rallies, and Sun Dances. Additionally, law enforcement officials in the region report that retail-level drug distribution occurs at casinos on reservations throughout the region.


Marijuana is the drug most widely abused by American Indians in the region. According to TEDS data, marijuana was the illicit drug most frequently reported by American Indians in the region who sought drug treatment during 2006, the latest year for which such data are available. Marijuana-related treatment admissions have been stable at relatively high levels on reservations in the region for several years. American Indians on reservations in the region also seek treatment for methamphetamine abuse at fairly high levels. (See Table 9.)

Table 9. Primary Illicit Drug Mentions by American Indians Seeking Treatment for Abuse in the West Central Region, 2002-2006

Drug 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Cocaine 6.8% 7.7% 7.7% 7.0% 7.2%
Heroin 0.9% 0.9% 0.8% 0.8% 1.0%
Marijuana 30.9% 31.0% 31.7% 32.3% 32.3%
Methamphetamine 8.9% 11.8% 13.4% 13.6% 12.6%
Pharmaceuticals 6.6% 7.5% 7.1% 4.9% 3.9%

Source: Treatment Episode Data Set.

End Note

13. 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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