A plea for change

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My name is Cheryl Little Dog and I’m a paraplegic in a wheelchair. I know what drinking and driving can take from you. On May 19, 1991, 18 years ago, I was just like all of you, walking. Driving a vehicle without a thought that something could happen. In just minutes, I was thrown 160 feet from the vehicle.

Since my crash, I have seen the same mistake made over and over. More than anything (save having the use of my legs back) I want to see a change in the behaviors that lead to so many tragic deaths and disabling injuries in vehicle crashes because of drinking and driving.

Alcohol consumption by adults and young people has a profound effect on our Blackfeet Nation, our communities, our families and our children. The drinking, and drinking and driving has a direct economic effect on our communities; the costs of law enforcement, health care, education, treatment, and other services increase as resources are diverted to attend to the painful and often tragic consequences of our youth drinking.

In the beginning of the Blackfoot people’s lives, their traditions and values were given to them by the Creator. This is our relationship with all that has been given to us, knowing how our universe worked in these traditional ways and as we all walk the Circle of Life.

In the past, you could feel the peacefulness, not having to fight for the values, beliefs and principles that made the Blackfeet Nation’s Native people beautiful, and all joined as one. The people were independent and strong for they understood their world and the elements surrounding it with the main source of values of their culture, which are still just as important to all of us.

The Blackfoot had an outstanding sense of responsibility to their children. At an early age the children were taught many fundamentals of life. The boys were taught by the men, and the girls were taught by the women. The elders bestowed their wise words upon the ones who listened and the ones who thought they knew it all, learned and walked the hard way in life.

Then, this was adjudication (resolved) for the adults and youth, which today we have to go to court to settle an indictment (charge) or enter a plea and post bail.

As we travel through the paths and ages of our lives, we come to wisdom and wisdom can come to us at any time. Drinking and riding around with friends is not a rite of passage that is normal. Adults and our youth can come to wisdom and move along the right path, and with that comes respect and spiritual strength.

No single approach will entirely solve the problem of alcohol. Having each approach, wisely implemented and used in combination with other coordinated efforts, we can make a change that will reduce the damage that alcohol causes for new generations of Blackfeet children.

– Cheryl Little Dog

Seville Program Officer

Blackfeet Housing/Pikanii Action Team

Browning, Mont.