Indian Tribe Waves White Flag in War on Beer
Prohibition has failed, says an Oglala Sioux tribal leader: "It's time to legalize alcohol."
On the addiction-wracked Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a drug-legalization drama is playing out among 45,000 resident members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The drug in question is alcohol—which has long been banned on reservation land. Just like with other drugs, though, people who want to drink will get it somehow—in this case, driving to the nearby town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (population: 10), and purchasing some 13,000 cans of beer and malt liquor—per day—from just four stores. Clearly, prohibition isn't working. That’s why the chairman of Oglala’s Law and Order Committee, James Big Boy, said yesterday that he will soon submit a proposal to the tribal council to lift the ban. He believes that allowing alcohol to be sold on the reservation would free up the tribal police to investigate more meaningful crimes; it would cut back on drunk-driving deaths; and the tribe could use money raised by taxes on the sale of booze to fund alcohol-abuse education and addiction treatment programs. The tribe's half-a-billion-dollar lawsuit against the Whiteclay liquor stores was recently tossed out by a federal judge. Following thdecision, Big Boy told the New York Times, “I think it’s time to legalize alcohol.”