The Pine Ridge Reservation (home of the Oglala Lakota– or Teton Sioux) in South Dakota is what one author calls: “a paradox of rugged natural beauty contrasted with a people who struggle to retain their heritage, culture and sustenance.” This reservation is known for many things, including its rich history and landscape. From massive buttes, deep gorges and grassy prairie landscapes, the topography of Pine Ridge is stunning. A large percentage of land is useful for grazing and some farmland exists in the south.
Despite its natural beauty, Pine Ridge is lacking in resources. Geographic isolation, infertile land, limited water and lack of other natural resources have made it difficult for the Lakota to establish themselves economically. And unfortunately it is burdened by other incredibly disturbing statistics. A handful of these statistics include:
- Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
- 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
- Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
- Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
- Infant mortality is three times the national rate
- Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate. (Re-member.org, 2007)
News comes today from Matt Kelly of the Nebraska Radio Network that members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are voting today on whether to allow alcohol to be sold at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The reservation is the last one in South Dakota that’s still dry.
The issue is going to a vote as supporters say alcohol is already coming into the area from just across the border in Whiteclay, Nebraska, so the tribe should simply accept the inevitable and take control.
Those backers say profits from alcohol sales could be used to educate tribal members about the dangers of alcohol abuse — and for detox and treatment centers.
Opponents of ending prohibition blame the bottle for all that ails the reservation, from crime and joblessness to suicide, domestic abuse and infant deaths.
Today’s vote is expected to be very close. There are four state-licensed beer stores in Whiteclay, selling a combined total of more than four-million cans of beer every year.
More information about his vote can also be read: here
It is important to be aware of these events taking place in several parts of the country, especially in the possible threats that this vote can have on this profound and culturally-rich community.
What do you think? What will this vote decide? Weigh in.
For more information about Pine Ridge please visit the following sites and spread the word.