By Stephanie Joe
When a person seeking illicit drugs walked into Troy Sitting Eagle’s home, he decided he was going to make a stand against drugs in his community.
Siksika member Troy said the door to his on-reserve house opened, and a man walked in when his wife, Cindy Sitting Eagle, was home alone. The man said he wanted to place an order, frightening Cindy. When the man realized he was in the wrong house, he proceeded to Sitting Eagle’s neighbor’s house.
“I was very upset and scared for my wife,” said Troy. “I thought that was it. That’s enough.”
Troy and Cindy then set up a tent in the southeast corner of their yard, adjacent to the suspected drug dealer’s house to combat the drug problem in their community. They plan on staying there for 31 days, 24 hours a day. Today, June 16, marks their tenth day.
“Before I did everything, I prayed,” said Troy. “I didn’t want to act out of anger.”
Troy prayed and consoled his wife, who he said was afraid of what might happen “because of how violent these people can be when they are on that [drug].
“I told her someone has to make a sacrifice and try to get rid of these [drugs]. I said, ‘I’ll make the stand’.”
The couple doesn’t engage with the individuals they believe are involved in the illicit drug dealing activities. They don’t cause conflict with anyone going in or out of the house. They are simply there to observe, document, and pass along information to the chief.
“Our way is not to fight with our own people,” he said. Instead, the couple prays for the healing of those effected by the drug.
“We’ve got thousands and thousands of prayers to keep me and my wife going.”
Troy added they are constantly surrounded by Siksika member supporters, at least 30-40 per day.
“There’s always a presence and it makes me feel better knowing there’s people around sitting with my wife and I,” he said. “It allows me to do my perimeter checks.”
They don’t want anything negative to come from their peaceful sit-in and Troy wants to make it clear that they are not protesting the person they suspect is dealing the drug. They are protesting the drug itself.
“It’s important to let people know that we’re trying to eliminate the drug,” he said. “For myself, that’s the biggest challenge. How do you eliminate the drug and try and help the member?
“You can’t just throw the person in jail, because it’s not going to help the person.”
Cindy, who works with children services, said she experiences firsthand the effects the drugs have on families.
“I help children and cry with them because they want their mommy,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see that.”
Cindy is proud of her husband for starting the sit in but admits she was scared for their personal safety.
“But with all of the community coming out to support us and all the prayers that are coming, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “I know we’re doing the right thing.”
She said people are reaching out and asking what they can do in their own First Nations communities across the country.
“I let them know, ‘your community is different from ours’,” she said. “Make sure you are protected from harm and injury before you make a stand.”
She said people have come out and asked them what they need, and she only asks for one thing.
“Prayer,” she said. “All we ask is just to pray for these meth users and dealers. Pray for their strength to get away from this drug.”
And, firewood. They are seeking donations of firewood to keep their camp going for the 31 days.
Chanelle Francis, executive assistant of Siksika Medicine Lodge, said she thinks the sit-in is a good thing the Sitting Eagles are doing for the community.
She suggests that those suffering from drug addictions reach out for help.
“It comes from you,” she said. “If you want the treatment, then it’s up to you to stay in and receive the full treatment.
“We’re here to support anyone who wants the treatment and we’re here to give it.”