SD Reservation on Edge After Legalizing Booze
Police chief fears surge in violence
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Aug 15, 2013 2:03 AM CDT
In this Aug. 8, 2013 photo, a sign stands outside Whiteclay, Neb., urging Pine Ridge Indian Reservation residents to oppose the legalization of alcohol sales.   (AP Photo/Carson Walker)

(Newser) – A South Dakota reservation that's been dry almost since its founding has voted to allow the possession and sale of alcohol on its grounds, a move that runs counter to traditional federal rules. The decision has Oglala Sioux tribe members deeply divided—so divided that ballots had to be counted in a secure location, the New York Times reports. The vote came to 1,843 backing alcohol legalization and 1,678 seeking to uphold the ban. Those supporting legalization say it will bring in money tribe members already spend on alcohol from outside the reservation; those opposed cite years of booze-related tragedy.

Alcohol smuggled onto the Pine Ridge reservation has torn apart families and fueled poverty, crime, and accidents, the Times notes. Unemployment currently stands at about 80%. Pine Ridge's police chief himself drank heavily until age 31 and lost two daughters to drunk-driving incidents. He says legalization would mean his force wouldn't have to spend so much time taking care of alcohol possession and inebriation reports—but he says violent crime will likely soar, a particular problem when 37 officers are overseeing an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island. Click for the full piece.

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Showing 3 of 13 comments
watashiwa
Aug 17, 2013 7:05 AM CDT
Native Americans and many Orientals share an enzyme that makes alcohol make them do crazy things!!! They didn't call it "fire water' just because it is flammable you know!
ChopperPilot
Aug 15, 2013 4:53 PM CDT
Good for them. It isn't just a matter of personal choice, it's also the simple reality of what a giant failure prohibition has proven to be
julianpenrod
Aug 15, 2013 10:37 AM CDT
P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } Actually, the bizarre, if not dangerous, nature of the reservation system in American society has been an open secret for some time. The non Indian “rank and file” have been generally exposed to infinitely more material even about organized crime than about the reservation system. They are literally a world unto themselves, with laws of their own power structures and their own system of “understandings” that shape the application of the law. Crimes from rape to murder routinely go uninvestigated on the reservations, if they involve Indians. And the “news” for all their supposed devotion to truth and the right of the “rank and file” to know, have never carried out a comprehensive look at the reservation system. The non Indian public would likely be startled if not appalled by the violations of national law even human decency they would see. Including, likely, a state of well being that completely casts the lie to the relentlessly peddled idea of Indians living in poverty. If you don't have to pay for what you get, you don't need to have money! That, and the initiative by the power structure of the reservations not to let the “white eyes” know what's happening may be why so few leave. It's almost as if the U.S. agreed to give the power structure of the Indian communities unparalleled rights and powers in exchange for land.