Let The People Decide

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According to a recent article in the Devils Lake Journal, "A vote to allow alcohol to be sold at Spirit Lake Casino has been postponed by the Spirit Lake Tribal Council." The article goes on to say, "The reason given for the vote's postponement was cited as needing "further review.'"  I am of the opinion that this issue does not need further review.  We should hold a vote now and settle the debate.


Alcoholism is a terrible affliction.  No one is more aware of this than I.  I grew up in an era when alcohol was the drug of choice on the reservation.  I had the misfortune to fall victim to its devastating effects as a young man.  It was only after a dozen years and three stints in two different rehab facilities that I finally overcame my addiction. 


Opponents of legalizing the sale of alcohol on our reservation have good reason to fear alcohol and its damaging effects.  Everyone who lives on the reservation is directly, or indirectly, impacted by negative effects of alcoholism: Broken homes, a high rate of alcohol-related illness and deaths, alcohol-related fatal automobile accidents and high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome are among the many dysfunctional consequences of alcohol abuse.


My question for opponents of the sale of alcohol on our reservation is; why is our reservation suffering from the devastating effects of alcohol even though the sale of alcohol is prohibited on our reservation?  A follow-up question, if the ban is not effective now and never has been, what makes you think to keep the ban in place will make it effective in the future?  And, how is worrying about the sale of alcohol helping our community's alcoholics?  Right now our services offer very little in alcohol prevention and treatment.  One would think our focus should be offering useful programs for those in need.  


In my opinion, prohibition has NEVER worked.  It may work for a few individuals for a few hours, a few days, maybe even years, but in the end, if an alcoholic wants to drink nothing in the world is going to stop him or her.  I know; I grew on this reservation and for many years I was a hard-core alcoholic.  The ban never slowed me down even a little.  Not with the reservation being 60 miles long and 40 miles wide with numerous roads and trails connecting it to the outside world.  Prohibition is the least effective way to prevent, stop, or help an alcoholic recover.  Maybe, it is easier to support a ban, than it is to hold the alcoholic responsible for his or her behavior especially if that person is a relative.  And, does support a ban help people feel that they are actually doing something to combat alcoholism?  In actuality, it does nothing of the kind.  It's sort of like people who go to church on Sunday but behave in an unchristian like manner all week.


If a vote were held today I would vote YES to allow alcohol sales on the Rez.  However, my yes vote would be contingent on a tribal council resolution that 100% of the profits would go towards the building, staffing, and the operation of an addiction treatment facility here on Spirit Lake.  And, the facility would treat people with other addictions as well.  We have tribal members addicted to meth and pills who would also benefit from a treatment facility.

This issue has been debated for years and years.  It is time for all the people to decide, not just the tribal council members, whether the sale of alcohol on the reservation should be approved.


I am willing to accept the will of the people.  If the majority votes to continue to ban alcohol sales on our reservation so be it.  But, I do think we need to bring closure to a discussion that has been going on for as long as I can remember by letting the people decide.  Therefore, I urge our Tribal Council to let the people decide by holding a vote on the issue


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Erich Longie published on June 8, 2017 4:31 AM.

A bad ndn and the woman who loved him was the previous entry in this blog.

Fear is the greatest enemy of perseverance: Video games and Dakota culture is the next entry in this blog.

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