Alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge reservation is a war of immeasurable proportions; sadly, it is but one of many wars afflicting the poverty-stricken reservation - wars such as unemployment, gang violence, domestic abuse, poor health care services, drugs, suicide ... all of these affect every man, woman and child residing under these hellish conditions.
Unlike a year ago, when organizers were forced to halt a similar blockade, this time the support of the Pine Ridge tribal police was evident. On June 28, volunteers stopped cars and asked drivers if they had alcohol. Down the road, Pine Ridge tribal police waited to confiscate and ticket violators who brought alcohol, which has been banned since 1970, onto the reservation.
The article [''Volunteers stage beer blockade outside Pine Ridge,'' by The Associated Press, Vol. 28, Iss. 6] made mention of the fact that the Nebraska State Patrol has not been of any assistance in this endeavor to stanch the flow of alcohol into Pine Ridge. Col. Bryan Tuma, the Nebraska State Patrol superintendent, reported that ''after a legal sale is made, the patrol doesn't have the jurisdiction to stop people if they carry the alcohol across the state line into the reservation. We cannot randomly stop vehicles. If there are no problems with point of sale in Nebraska, there is very little we can do.''
At first, I was perturbed by this comment. Living on the border between Nebraska and Iowa, I know for a fact that on July 4, law enforcement officials regularly stop cars in the attempt to stop illegal fireworks from being brought into Nebraska from Missouri. Fireworks are legal in Bellevue and our neighborhood puts on a show that rivals Rosenblatt Stadium - we regularly have 150 attendees. However, after a little thought, I believe I see the point.
It is not Missouri law officers stopping and confiscating fireworks heading into Nebraska: the fireworks checks are the handiwork of Nebraska officers. So that means that Nebraska officers are truly powerless to stop the influx of alcohol onto the reservation - it is up to the tribal officers and/or other officials to stop the tidal wave of poison from seeping across the reservation border and soaking into the veins of their people.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching the alcohol problem, as well as the living conditions at Pine Ridge. I did not cite the references because individually, they reveal small bits and pieces of what is truly a heartbreaking story. Together, though, on a backdrop dripping with despair and desperation, one of the ugliest portraits of America I could ever encounter is revealed.
The horrific sociological issues deeply imbedded in Pine Ridge, and perhaps all of the reservations, are having a tidal wave effect and are pushing these people - collectively - toward the very brink of utter destruction - mind, body and soul. Short of a major revolution, I am unable to conceive of a way these people can ever recover, let alone survive. They are, unfortunately, being held captive by a fortified wall of profound ignorance and warped ideology inflicting the greater majority of American people.
- Lena Walker