A.J. Longsoldier, 18, who died after falling ill in jail. (Fort Belknap photo)
A lot was going on yesterday at the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council meeting.
The group heard from Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, who made a rare visit to Montana.
And, it asked Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of 18-year-old basketball star A.J. Longsoldier, who died shortly after he was taken from a northern Montana jail to a nearby hospital.
Susan Olp of the Billings Gazette has the story here:
Keel, who is Chickasaw, spoke about the Indian Health Care Improvement Act; the problem of inadequate and deteriorating reservation housing, and the overwhelming issue of under-funding for Indian Country issues in general.
Tribal Leaders Council James Steele Jr. of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, talked about the difficulty of maintaining reservation roads with federal funding.
But perhaps the most emotional issue was the approval of the resolution calling for action surrounding the death of Longsoldier, from the Fort Belknap Reservation and a former basketball standout at Hays-Lodgepole High School. He was jailed on an alleged probation violation. During his two days in jail, he complained of feeling ill, and was twice taken to the hospital and died the second time:
While in jail, he appeared to be hallucinating, was talking to himself and pulled out some of his hair. An autopsy determined that LongSoldier died from acute alcohol withdrawal. A coroner’s inquest in March found that the detention officers were not criminally liable in the death.
Tracy King, president of the Fort Belknap Tribal Council, who attended the inquest, raised the issue at the meeting. King said more should have been done for LongSoldier to help save his life.
He called the handling of the youth in jail “a civil rights violation.”
“I see too many of our youth being railroaded by systems that don’t work in their favor,” King said.
Dr. Kathleen Masis, who works for the Tribal Leaders Council, calls his death a warning.
“It means we need to make sure what is represented as happening never happens again, to an Indian or non-Indian.”
Tags: A.J. LongSoldier, buffalo post, Chickasaw, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Gwen Florio, Hays-Lodgepole High School, Indian Health Care Improvement Act, James Steele Jr., Jefferson Keel, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, National Congress of American Indians, Native American news, NCAI