Tribal Council Green Lights Referendum On Alcohol

Jun 12, 2013

The Oglala Sioux people will have a chance to decide in a 2014 referendum if alcohol should remain illegal on Pine Ridge.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council gave approval to a reservation wide vote on the longstanding prohibition of alcohol.

SDPB's Charles Michael Ray tuned into the tribal council meeting broadcast on K-I-L-I Radio.  He has this report.

The proposal to legalize alcohol on Pine Ridge elicits a strong reaction from both sides.  Tribal council representative Paul Little disputes the idea that the tribe could benefit from revenue raised from alcohol sales.

"The tribe might make net a million dollars but the external cost to the people, to society in general, to everything else other than that profit would be negative in the hole in the red.  There is no profit when you look at it," says Little.

But those in favor of a tribal wide vote to end prohibition counter that all the revenue from alcohol sales is now going off the reservation to places like Whiteclay.  Council representative Robin Tapio argues that alcohol taxes can fund much needed treatment programs.

"You know what we have we have people lined up begging to go to treatment, and there is no treatment centers that will take them.   You talk to every one of those people sitting in Whiteclay and they don't want to be there, they would rather be in a detox. So where are we going to get the money,” says Tapio. 

A building in the town of Whiteclay on the boarder of Pine Ridge.

A vote on tribal prohibition won't come until 2014.  In the meantime the council approved placing a permanent  Port of Entry at the Reservation Boarder  near the town of Whiteclay aimed at curbing the flow of alcohol onto Pine Ridge.