Oglala Sioux tribal members are proud of Pine Ridge Reservation
By LISA WIRTHMAN / THE DENVER POST / May 27, 2012
Dana Lone Hill is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. While poverty and alcoholism are critical issues on the reservation, she says it’s also a place of hope and pride in this e-mailed interview. Lone Hill is author of an upcoming book, “Pointing with Lips.”
Q: What’s your opinion of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to stop beer manufacturers, distributors and retailers from encouraging illegal bootlegging of beer onto the reservation?
A:I do believe in the lawsuit. I think corporations should take responsibility for any kind of damages they have on a people, whether that be pollution, toxic emissions, or poisoning in any way, which is what alcoholism is.
One thing I want people to understand is not everyone in Pine Ridge drinks every day. Yes, there is a problem with alcoholism; yes, something needs to be done. But you have to also remember there are many, many families on the reservation who don’t choose that path in life.
I believe if we had more jobs and opportunities, the problem would not be as vast as it is. I also believe small business is the way to go.
Q: You have two sons who just graduated high school and don’t drink. What are the best solutions to help teenagers on the reservation avoid alcohol?
A:There seems to be a sober movement among today’s high schoolers, which I am very proud to see. Encourage sobriety and education, and always believe in your children and let them know that you believe in them.
Q: What can people who live outside the area do to help Pine Ridge?
A:People need to have more open minds about life on the reservation, about why it is easier for some with such hard lives to fall into alcoholism, instead of putting them down so quickly. They need to understand that daily life is about striving to get the next day, and understand this without pity.
This is a reservation; it’s not a suburban area with strip malls, central air, pet groomers, and mortgages. It’s a hard life for many, and it doesn’t in any way compare to an average family that is wondering if it chose the right orthodontist, or is rushing to a soccer tournament.
Q: Can you describe some of the pride and hope you see in Pine Ridge?
A:We are human. There are so many of us. Yes, alcohol affects every one of us in some way, shape or form, but we are human. Each and every person from Pine Ridge is proud of where he or she is from. It doesn’t matter if he or she is old, young, half-breed, full-blood, man, woman, child, drunk, sober, free, or locked up.
We are proud for so many reasons. We are proud of our leaders of the past, we are proud of the fight in our warriors, we are proud of the women who sustain through so much, we are proud of defeating the U.S. government in 1876, and we are proud that we are still here. Sure, other tribes struck it rich with casinos and settlements, but when that dries up, Pine Ridge will still be here and we will still be proud of being from there.
I do believe there is hope in Pine Ridge. It is everywhere; it’s just that no one bothers to look for it. When I see a young kid know the traditions and values of being Lakota — know a song, a dance, or how to be respectful — that right there is hope.