Pine Ridge Reservation Alcohol Ban Lifted After Controversial Vote

Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 12:55 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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The Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota chose Wednesday to end an alcohol ban that had been in place for most of the time the reservation had been in existence.

The New York Times wrote that tribal election officials confirmed ending the ban by a narrow 165-vote margin — 1,843 in favor of legalization and 1,678 against it, according to the election commission.

Tribal members will have three days to challenge the result, but the election chairman, Francis Pumpkin Seed, said the burden to prove that the vote is invalid will lie with the person making the charge, reported the New York Times.

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The Associated Press stated that 26,000 of the 43,000 Oglala Sioux Tribe members live on the reservation. Only tribal members 18 and older who live on the reservation were eligible to vote on the referendum.

Votes were counted from nine polling places in various locations at the reservation, which is larger than Delaware, noted the AP. The ballots were all brought to Pine Ridge, S.D., for tallying.

Pine Ridge was the last "dry" reservation in South Dakota, Reuters reported. The ordinance said the tribe will import and sell alcohol and a new government department will run tribe-owned liquor stores.

The proposal called for directing liquor sales profits to set up two full-service detoxification centers and for programs for treatment, counseling, and related services for residents suffering the negative consequences of alcohol abuse, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2009 that chronic liver disease was the fifth leading cause of death for all American Indian/Alaska Native men, and the second leading cause of death for men aged 35 to 44.

According to the U.S. Census, Pine Ridge reservation is one of the poorest spots in the country. Shannon County, which lies entirely within the reservation's borders, is the third poorest county in the country, per Reuters.

Ron Duke, Pine Ridge’s chief of police, told the New York Times he was against the change and expects a sharp rise in violence, stretching his small force 37 officers thin. Duke, 63, said he gave up alcohol when he turned 31 but its effects touched his family, losing two daughters to drunken-driving accidents in the 1990s.

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