The Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol ban has ended. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has voted to end the 1889 prohibition. The South Dakota reservation previously banned the sale, possession, and consumption, of all alcohol.
The prohibition was largely ignored. However, the tribe has decided to regulate, rather than ban, alcoholic beverages.
As reported by Reuters, the Reservation is one of the poorest communities in the nation. They have also dealt with widespread alcoholism.
Surrounding communities capitalized on the Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol ban. Whiteclay, Nebraska, has four liquor stores. Many of their sales are to members of the Sioux Tribe.
The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission reports that more than 160,000 cases of beer were sold in Whiteclay last year.
Tribal leaders petitioned for a ban on alcohol sales in Whiteclay. Judge John Gerrand turned down their petition. However, he acknowledged the tribe’s plight:
“There is, in fact, little question that alcohol sold in Whiteclay contributes significantly to tragic conditions on the Reservation.”
Lifting the Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol ban is the first step in addressing the problem. The proposal includes provisions to regulate the import and sale of alcohol on tribal land.
Profits will be used to deter and treat alcohol abuse. Two clinics will be created. The clinics will offer detoxification, counseling, and awareness programs.
Tribal President Bryan Brewer expects the transition to be difficult. As reported by NPR, he strongly opposed lifting the ban:
“We know the use will go up… We know there’ll be more violence. There’ll be more women and children who will be abused… I hope they talk about that. I hope it’s not just about the money but how we can work with our people.”
Brewer admits that the problems will eventually “taper off.” However, he is concerned about the well-being of his people.
Lifting the Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol band is a big risk. However, a majority of tribal members want to see the profits put to good use.
[Image via Flickr]