Local mother testified in Congress on the death of her son at a BIE Boarding School

Marisha Friday, left, and Beatrice Willis, July 2017. Photo by Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Before the U.S. House of Representatives, Natural Resources Committee

The following is the testimony that is scheduled to be given at noon today, March 16, 2019, by Beatrice Irene Martel-Willis on the lack of mental health options for students in Bureau of Indian Education Boarding Schools. Her testimony is set for room 1334 Longworth House Office Building, in front of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. The hearing is entitled “Investigating the Health and Safety Risks of Native Children at BIE Boarding Schools.

Martel-Willis’ son, Marshall, died of complications from a drug abuse after he was removed from the Chemewa Indian School in Oregon.

Her testimony, copied in its entirety:

“Mental and behavioral health issues are a neglected area at Bureau of Indian Education run boarding schools for Native American students, today. And, when the schools are aware of these problems, many parents are never informed.

This is what happened with my son, Marshall Everett Friday II who was a student at Chemawa Indian School during all four of his high school years, although he was sent home several times for behavior-related issues and also attended other public schools in Washington and Oregon. Many of the write-ups he received were said to be bogus by many school staff as
well as Ted Mack, former Superintendent at the school, who said Marshall was singled out.

But there where more severe issues related to my son. Marshall was 18 years old when he died in Tualatin, Oregon.. He died May 30, 2017, just two weeks after his graduation from Chemawa. Unknown to me, Marshall was suffering from severe or manic depression with suicidal ideations and had been hearing voices telling him to hurt himself since 2014. Marshall had told me he was on medication for depression and anxiety and the school and clinic never informed me of it. He turned to drugs because he could not get his medications and he used air duster to get relief from the mental issues affecting him.
Marshall also suffered from untreated ADHD although the school knew he had this disorder.

Marshall died from a lethal amount of the chemical found in air duster,
1,1-difluoroethane, which caused him to have a massive heart attack. I found him turned on his side, face down in his room at 10:14 p.m., and he died at 5:26 a.m. the following morning. He was brain dead before he reached the hospital.

Our family believes Marshall was using other drugs as well as air duster to lessen the effects of his mental conditions. Marshall had medication refills for his issues sitting at the ndian Health Clinic the Friday before he died. The clinic refused to send those pills to him and we lacked funds to get gas to pick them up, less than 50 miles from our Tualatin home.

Marshall finished school early in March and would go back to walk with his class on May 12, 2017. In early April, Marshall was told by the school he could not attend prom or any other functions at the school, public or private, since he was no longer a student there. Although other alumni are allowed to attend public events, Marshall was told he could not. That same week in April, Marshall was sent to the hospital for abusing air duster as well as cited by police for abusing the chemical. Marshall would have 4 police contacts and two emergency room visits in the time he was using in less than a one-month period.

The school is not totally at fault. I had set up an evaluation for Marshall at a local substance abuse center but accidently told him to go to the wrong center on his appointment date. We never made another appointment as Marshall said he quit huffing and he no longer exhibited the signs of use and I believed he had stopped. All the odors associated with use, police calls, emergency room visits and scrapes and bruises he had when he was using were gone.

During his junior year, Marshall had suffered from chest pains while running track. Although it was not known to myself until Marshall told me. He was later sent to a facility in Kaiser, Oregon for heart tests by the Indian Health Service clinic utilized by Chemawa, although I was never informed of the results of those tests and still do not know what center of hospital he
was sent to for them.

Marshall suffered a massive heart attack that left him brain dead and his organs slowly giving out during the course of the night of May 29-30, 2017. After being revived three times,
chest bones broken and his family seeing tubes sticking out of all different parts of his body, the decision was made to let him go. His heart rate had continued to drop and medications could not keep it high enough.
Results of Marshall’s autopsy showed an open heart murmur the clinic used by the school knew about, as well as our family, according to records obtained from the school, all of which have been submitted for your review.

Ryan Cox, of the school told me on one occasion that when a parent allows their child to attend Chemawa they basically make their child a ward of the court and the school becomes parentis ad litem or the child’s guardian while attending the school. In BIE boarding schools for Native Americans, students must justify a need to go to these schools by getting permission from their tribally run Child Protection Services.

Chemawa does not feel the need to inform parents of mental or behavioral health conditions due to that reason and to the fact that all children in Oregon are able to apply for medical insurance through the state at the age of 15, according to Ryan Cox. He also said the school has a requirement that all students at the school must apply for Medicaid, and use the Indian Health Service clinic located in Kaiser, Oregon or to receive any medical services outside of the clinic.

All other schools in the nation, besides those run by BIE, are required to inform parents of their children’s mental or behavioral health issues if they are known by the school but unknown to the parents.

Marshall is buried at Friday Cemetary in Ethete, Wyoming.

After Marshall’s death, federal legislation is now being drafted to presented to the U.S. Congress to help protect students with these issues when they leave school or are no longer in an educational setting. I hope to someday set up a memorial fund in his memory to help provide scholarships to
any former college or vocational student who have no way to return on their re-enter into higher education program. I also envisions the memorial fund to be a source of small business grants on our home reservation, Wind River in Central Wyoming for tribal members there, both Northern
Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone. Baldwin, Crocker, & Rudd would be in charge of the dispersing all monies from the Marshall Friday Memorial Scholarship and Small Business Grant Program. They are currently the lawyers for the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Marshall, his siblings and I are all enrolled members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

Baldwin, Crocker, & Rudd of Lander, Wyoming, are drafting the bill and are leading the promotion of the draft, along with the family of Friday.
The focus is to keep families informed of their children’s issues so they can better help their children deal with them. “The Marshall Friday Plan” will be presented by Baldwin, Crocker, & Rudd; Lee Spoonhunter, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Tribe; Andrea LeBeau-Clifford, Wyoming State Legislator; myself, Beatrice Irene Martel-Willis, mother of Marshall E. Friday III; and his siblings, Marisha Evette Friday, Chester John Friday and Robert Earl Friday.

Anyone wanting more information on the proposed federal legislation can contact Andy Baldwin, Berthenia Crocker, or Kelly Rudd, of Baldwin, Crocker, & Rudd. For more history see “Life and Death at Chemawa Indian School”, by Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

, by Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.


Anyone wanting more information on the proposed federal legislation can contact Andy Baldwin, Berthenia Crocker, or Kelly Rudd, of Baldwin, Crocker, & Rudd. For more history see “Life and Death at Chemawa Indian School”, by Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.”