Actions to Help Native American Tribes Fight New Mexico DWI

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced several initiatives intended to address DWI incidents on tribal lands. The efforts stem from national statistics that indicate American Indians are three times more likely to experience a DWI related fatality than any other ethnic group. Approximately 25 percent of all alcohol related traffic deaths in New Mexico occur on Native American lands.

One key strategy is the creation of a tribal DWI task force. It will be charged with addressing issues such as public awareness campaigns, data sharing between law enforcement agencies, incarceration of those arrested for or convicted of DWI, and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.

New Mexico officials also stated that an agreement has been reached with the Navajo Nation under which two full-time tribal officers will work exclusively to enforce DWI laws on the reservation.

The DWI initiatives were announced in advance of a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs ‘super blitz’ against drunk driving over the holidays.

In line with that effort, public service announcements have been unveiled that are the first to target Native Americans and drunk driving. The ads, termed ‘There is an enemy among us’, feature a Native American grandmother stopping a man from drinking and driving. Others, representing the support of the tribe, form a circle around the man.

Lonnie Anderson, Apache and creative director of the anti-DWI public service announcements, said ‘”We wanted to do a piece that wasn’t a shaming spot, and to encourage the community to come out.”

The director of the ads was Chris Eyre, who worked the movie adaptation of Tony Hillerman’s ‘Skinwalkers’.” Eyre made small, yet significant, changes to eliminate stereotypes. “My goal was not to show any stereotypical perceptions, especially when it’s an Indian actor,” he said.

The DWI ads started airing in New Mexico this week and are scheduled to run through the holidays.

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