The problems always attributed to the Pine Ridge Reservation by the national media are not so awful that they cannot be corrected.
Too often the media sees only the surface and not the core. If one bothered to dig deeper one would surely find that many of the media driven news stories of absolute destitution are only covering one side of the story.
What about the success stories of Oglala Lakota College or of the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club or the small programs striving to combat drugs and alcohol problems? There are a myriad of good stories waiting to be told about life on the reservation that always take a back seat to the bad.
Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem visited Pine Ridge a couple of weeks ago and we wonder if they left Pine Ridge with any conception of the problems and of the cures. The main reason they were there was to take a look at why there were so many suicides on the reservation.
Let us suggest to them that the basic reasons for this tragedy can be laid at the foot of drugs and alcohol. Homes are turned upside down by the infiltration of drugs and alcohol into the homes of the young people of the reservation. Another addiction has taken hold as well of late and that addiction is gambling.
Income is low or non-existent on the reservation and when the parents of young children become addicted to gambling the small amount of money they earn is lost in the casino thus leaving their children without good clothing or even food. And it definitely leaves them without money for any form of recreation.
Along with the anger and abuse that often accompanies the use of drugs and alcohol many reservation children are left with a feeling of hopelessness. When a child loses hope for a future they find there is no reason to live. The abuse of drugs and alcohol should be one of the most important classes in the reservation schools.
And so we must come to the conclusion that if Thune or Noem hope to make a difference their first goal should be to appropriate the funds to build a state of the art drug and alcohol treatment center on the Pine Ridge Reservation and then make sure it gets enough funding to address one of the most damaging problems on the reservation. The terrible impact of drugs and alcohol didn’t happen overnight so there must be enough funds appropriated for the long haul.
Theft, robberies, murder, rape, spousal and child abuse, and the lack of money to support one’s family can all be traced to alcohol and drug abuse. And so the cure lies in taking this problem head on and the solution to all of the other problems will follow.
(The Editorial Board of Native Sun News can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)