The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has approved the filing of a federal lawsuit against six of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and three of the largest drug distributors.

The tribe alleges that the companies used deceptive marketing tactics with the intent to maximize profits while minimizing the addictive nature of the powerful painkillers and the health risks to patients.

“The opioid epidemic has taken the entire United States by storm. Its impact has been particularly heavy here in Indian Country,” said Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson Sr. “The crisis caused by the proliferation of opiates throughout our communities is the newest threat to our way of life.

“We hope this lawsuit will help to bring further attention to this major issue and ultimately make sure the major opioid manufacturers, who have put their corporate profit margins over the lives of our people, are held accountable for their actions.”

The highly addictive nature of opioids has led to a major public health crisis in tribal communities, the band said. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Indians have the highest rate of opioid overdoses per 100,000 people.


Grand Marais

Holiday tunes from the Arrowhead to you

Northern Minnesotans looking for some local holiday tunes can turn to Grand Marais’ community radio station, WTIP.

The station is offering “Cook County Christmas,” its first compilation of mostly local artists playing holiday or wintry melodies. The CD features 10 musicians or groups from Cook and Lake counties, as well as a Boundary Waters-loving artist from Nashville. All regularly play at North Shore resorts and bars.

Some songs were recorded using equipment and space above a local garage, said the station’s music director, Will Moore. Other artists contributed already recorded songs. Physical CDs are limited, but the compilation can be downloaded for $15 at the station’s website,

Pam Louwagie


Three men in kidnapping case remain in jail

The three men arrested in September and accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old Alexandria girl and holding her captive for 29 days remain in the Douglas County jail.

Thomas Jay Barker, 32, and Joshua Lee Holby, 31, both of Carlos, Minn., and Steven Michael Samuel Powers, 20, of Benson, Minn., were charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. Barker and Powers also were charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and Barker faces an additional count of second-degree assault.

Holby’s next court hearing is Jan. 11, Powers’ is Feb. 15 and Barker’s is March 8. Barker’s attorney, Justin Braulick, has said his client’s story is “significantly different” from what was reported by police and that the criminal complaint is not accurate.

In October, Alexandria police offered a Barrett, Minn., man a $7,000 reward for helping rescue the girl, but the man, Earl Melchert, gave the money to the girl’s family.