Bomb damage

Published Wednesday October 7, 2009

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION — In terms of social devastation, it’s not an exaggeration to say that a bomb has exploded, figuratively, in the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Talk to leaders with the Oglala Sioux, and they will tell you that the blast from that bomb — in the form of alcoholism, social dysfunction and despair — has touched nearly every family in the reservation.

Pine Ridge is a community struggling against social woes of truly frightening proportion.

Against this background, it is welcome news that conscientious Nebraska leaders, including State Sens. Russ Karpisek and Colby Coash, have turned their attention this year to looking for viable ways to address the Pine Ridge woes. The lawmakers held a recent hearing on the matter.

Tim Giago, a longtime Oglala Sioux newspaper publisher and commentator, notes that the fundamental problem is the horrendous alcoholism at the reservation. So, prohibiting beer sales by the liquor stores in nearby Whiteclay, Neb., would not solve the problem.

But that shouldn’t close the door to searching for practical responses. Stepped-up efforts at alcohol treatment, law enforcement and investigation of unlawful incidents should be examined.

Pine Ridge is devastated. Nebraska, South Dakota and the federal government all can contribute to helping find a positive way forward.

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