Steven Lewis Simpson

White Clay, A Time for Tough, Level Headed Decisions for the People of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Firstly, we would all like to see alcoholism end on Pine Ridge as everywhere else. Though that reality is not likely. It’s destruction on Pine Ridge is seismic in so many dark ways it is hard to bear. An alcoholic may recover but a child abused by one may not ever.

We are all sitting in a very real world and need to acknowledge a pragmatic solution to improve the reality. I’d like to see White Clay disappear as it is but let us also be real that alcohol will still be bought by people on Pine Ridge. This has happened before when there have been roadblocks shutting off access to White Clay for sobriety checks. But if White Clay was shut down tomorrow and Pine Ridge remains dry then I want people to answer how they will deal with an increase in road deaths and incarcerations as that is exactly what will happen as people drive the 24 miles to Rushville or other border towns rather than walk the 2 miles to White Clay. The Sheridan County cops are the ones you are watching in these video clips aggressively arresting President Brewer and others. They are the ones that will be busting the Oglala on the roads. Even if sober, many don’t have tags on their car, insurance etc..

To me the only viable way of closing White Clay and its exploitation is to legalize alcohol sales on the Rez. It can be limited to weaker beers and could only be bought in tribally administered stores so as to ensure a sizable amount of revenue stays on Pine Ridge rather than run straight off. Alcoholism is a big problem but so also is the lack of economy as the money goes outside. Treatment centers being funded by it would certainly be a bonus.

The time I’ve spent on Rosebud didn’t make me feel like it was in a worse position by being a “wet” reservation, though that is not for me to say. Countries like Portugal who changed their drug laws drastically by decriminalizing possession had a great increase in people moving into treatment and lowering health problems because by having a more open culture they could deal with things better. Assuming alcoholism is a disease as those in the know tend to state it is then those that are alcoholics will be so regardless of whether the rez is wet or dry until they tackle it personally. I can imagine it would be easier to tackle it with family around if they are not forced to waste away their days in White Clay or hold up in homes out of sight with their other alcoholic buddies. The isolation can only worsen the despair.

I have spoken with many prominent leaders and business people from Pine Ridge and many privately talk about the advantages of it being a wet reservation but many won’t talk openly about it. Lets also be honest that many are also playing politics as may we know are also susceptible to taking a drink.

A sovereign nation should take full responsibility for it’s actions and people. I don’t see how things can get much worse than the current situation with White Clay, other than if people are forced to go further afield and there is more carnage on the roads. Anyone who thinks closing White Clay will stop drinking is living in a fantasy land. The bootleggers also already exist. Though the other White Clay exploitation I’d love to see people talk about is the Pawn Shop that is also seeing a lot of money sucked out of the reservation for nothing.

One pattern that has been proven in life over and over is when you start treating people with more respect as adults they tend to start acting that way and take more personal responsibility. I have great friends from Pine Ridge soaring ahead in the world. They are the definition of people who have taken total personal responsibility and have soared because of it. For me it’s time to move forward. Time to bankrupt White Clay through lack of custom rather than push the customers further afield.

White Clay creates more divisions within Pine Ridge. There are already too many divided within this wonderful community. I want nothing more than to see the quality of life for people there to soar. There are so many amazing things about Pine Ridge. A shame we’re not spending more time talking about that, celebrating that. Lifting the resonance of the whole community up rather than constantly seeing White Clay and all it’s negativity suck people down.


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