BROWNING – A group on the Blackfeet Reservation has been around for three years, but members are now speaking out about what they do and why they do it.
“Why the silent warriors? Because we no longer wanted to be silent,” Silent Warrior Coalition member Terrance LaFromboise said.
The Silent Warriors host meetings, respond to emergency calls to their hotlines and try to be there for anyone in need.
“We decided, ‘Hey, let’s do something about the issues we have instead of complain and moan around,’” LaFromboise said.
LaFromboise is just one of the many members doing his best to keep his family and community safe.
“We shouldn’t play the victim and I don’t say that all the time. The idea that we have to overcome what’s given to us. We have to be strong enough to pull ourselves out,” LaFromboise said.
Diana Burd believes the same thing – that if they can be there for just one person, it will better the community.
“I think a lot more voices would be heard if we stood together,” Burd said.
For her, it hits close to home.
“The drug epidemic is really close to my heart because mostly everyone I know has a problem with drugs or alcohol. There’s not a day that goes by that a helicopter don’t fly by and I’m thinking in my mind, ‘Who’s that? Who are we sending away today?’ We all know each other. It could be my brother, it could be my sister, one of my kids, my neighbor? It’s a trauma that is in this community. Once we hear the helicopter come, I’ll freeze wherever I’m at,” Burd said.
The Silent Warriors meet at the Four Winds Assembly of God Church. Sometimes they meet once a month, sometimes it’s more. But the warriors say it’s a lot of work outside of those meetings.
“It got so normal. It got so normal for somebody to be on the street passed out. Our kids will walk right by, business as usual. It’s normal to see someone on the street. Once you think about it, it’s not normal,” Burd said.
Pastor Joel Toppen is also a member of the Silent Warriors Coalition. He said he often sees drug deals happening right outside his church.
“It’s a severe problem here in town. Most if not all the people that I regularly interact with are affected in some way with drug use. If not themselves, then a family member or someone they are close with. There’s a ripple effect,” Toppen said.
The group not only focuses on drugs and alcohol addiction, but suicide and mental health. They also do whatever they can for missing and murdered Indigenous people.
“Because we are sovereign, or what we call quasi sovereign, a lot of our policies fall back on our community leaders or our tribal business council. So we’ve been trying to be more in-depth in getting to them personally and making sure that they know because they come from the same community that we do, that you have to fight for the same issues that we do,” LaFromboise said.
If you or a family member wish to reach out to the warriors, you can find their contact information on their Facebook page by clicking here.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News