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Stop buying alcohol and White Clay beer sales will also stop



After all the debate either for or against the possible legalization of alcohol on the homeland, it’s over. Perhaps this “mood altering chemical” will be legalized in the future, but for now it’s over. For the moment we are status quo, nothing changed. Alcohol will be purchased in places like White Clay, “bootlegged” on the “rez,” and consumed in excess.

Yes, many will continue to drink this illegal substance to excess until their bodies cannot take it anymore and they will die prematurely. A normal death is not considered a trauma, but a premature death caused by alcohol is. Abusing alcohol and drugs is a symptom of unresolved trauma in a person’s life. As unhealthy as it is, people consume it as way to “deal” with their trauma.

Many more will consume it at backyard barbecues with a cooler full of ice and beer, believing they are participating in the proverbial American dream. A few may be able to “handle” their alcohol consumption and that is fine. But for a majority, it is a problem in many aspects. All-in-all, alcohol is being consumed within the “exterior boundaries” of a “dry” reservation without consequences.

Penalties for violating the “no alcohol” standard are so weak that they actually promote the illegal possession, sale, and consumption, of it. Tribal laws are such that an intoxicated person may be incarcerated but released after 8-hours with minimal punishments. To some people it is a personal economic opportunity and thus we have bootlegging. Those with connections to the “governing body” (tribal council) never serve jail time even when they are “busted” for this crime. Illegal drug dealers and users are rampant now compared to a few years ago when all we had to worry about was alcoholism.

There is only one point I am alluding to is the fact that the consequences of the laws that are supposed to govern alcohol are useless. Although alcohol is illegal on our homeland, laws are minimal and punishment is lackadaisical.

White Clay is perceived to be the problem. Many attempts have been made to stop the sale of alcohol by closing down the three or four outlets there. They claim these proprietors are becoming rich by selling alcohol to unfortunate “Indians.” Realistically, those few who hang out in White Clay are a small number and spend what they can scrape up to buy it.

The bulk of the alcohol sales money comes from a much larger population on the reservation. The unemployment rate is high here because there are no jobs. However many do hold jobs with tribal, federal, and state entities. Many live on fixed incomes like military pension, disability compensation, social security (disability and retirement), etc. There are a few here who have families, nice cars and homes. These larger groups are the real contributors to the White Clay problem. Those few vagrants, passed out on the street in White Clay, are but a minuscule minority yet they have been made a scapegoat of sorts to cover up for the larger population. This group is able to consume their alcohol unhindered.

These few who habituate White Clay were once contented people with families, jobs, and all that go with that. They are humans who have encountered trauma in their lives and were unable to cope effectively with it and they gradually resorted to alcohol to cope. By its nature, alcoholism is a progressive disease. It starts small and grows until people eventually end up in White Clay.

An example is a young man who served prison time for a heinous crime he did not commit. The actual perpetrator remained free during and after his incarceration. Realizing that he had no way to vindicate this injustice, he eventually resorted to alcohol. He lost his family and eventually his life there on the streets of White Clay.

Regardless, they must be stopped at any cost. Their lives are important to their families, their children, and to the Oglala Lakota people. They must be made to realize that they cannot do what they are doing. They must be made to realize that there are consequences.

I believe tribal government has a responsibility to the people of the reservation. I believe they are obligated to forget their personal agendas, their vengeful crusades, and their personal financial interests and look earnestly into this devastating situation.

No one, including tribal government, is saying, “Don’t do that” or “You can’t do that.” In reality they are absolutely free to continue until they die. Perhaps they can be picked up each time they are intoxicated (White Clay or elsewhere) and incarcerated for a significantly progressive amount of time to encourage them to think about what they are doing. Let’s stop ignoring the situation and develop stringent laws.

This could be followed up by providing education for their addiction (s) while they are in jail. Many do not understand why they drink or drug. Their families must be involved with this education process. Tribal programs that are supposed to deal with alcoholism are instead hindered by federal or state financial requirements. I’d like to know just how successful these programs have been.

Simply sending people to treatment is similar to letting them sit in jail for short time and then releasing them. They come home and continue to do what they had been doing prior. A new DUI law has been enacted that did not consider mental illness as a factor in the excessive drinking. Such people simply sit in jail when they need help. Our government has been irresponsible. Some are only interested in votes.

Even people who have not touched a drop of alcohol are affected by the destructive symptoms of unresolved trauma. As a person who struggled alone to recover from unresolved trauma, I have been able to “see” these symptoms in every district, including our elected officials. I have seen the resulting government corruption or abuse of power many times over.

If we want to stop the White Clay beer sales, we must start at home. I know it is improbable but if there is no one left to buy alcohol, these businesses will have to close their doors. Lastly, alcohol is an unnatural substance and the Oceti Sakowin way is natural.

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out, POB 147, Oglala, SD, 605-867-2448, mato_

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