Deeper solution needed

Published Sunday February 7, 2010

I was encouraged to read that “State leaders, others focus on Whiteclay” (Jan. 31). The problems of alcoholism and Nebraska’s shame of profiting from beer sales to Natives need to be addressed. When Nebraskans for Peace raised the issue in 1999, few even knew the Nebraska beer sales were contributing to Native alcoholism.

Although it is encouraging that Nebraska’s governor and state legislators have begun to address the problem, their initial solutions – a town cleanup, a recycling center and a mini-mall – do little to address the tragedy of Nebraska’s skid row of the Plains.

Whereas I admire the optimism of Bruce BonFleur, he is naïve to think that economic development and town beautification will have much of an impact on alcoholism. The truth is that Pine Ridge tribal leaders need to face the problem head on. My Native friends told me that years ago.

Tribal leaders need to stop the illegal bootlegging and sale of liquor on the dry reservation. They must also strengthen their commitment to alcohol treatment.

However, as needed as alcohol treatment is (there is talk about increasing treatment capabilities in Rushville), it might be compared to building a hospital at the bottom of the cliff to assist casualties rather than building a fence at the top to keep people from falling off.

I commend Sen. Bob Krist and others for involving South Dakota legislators in the Whiteclay problem. It will take a coordinated effort of Native peoples, state and federal government and private citizens to adequately address this human tragedy.

But let’s not distract ourselves from the core issues of poverty, despair, alcoholism, sexual exploitation and violence. The goal should not be just economic development but human development. Together we can work toward a real solution.

John Krejci, Lincoln

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