Les bles­sures de Whiteclay

Vocable (Anglais) - - Société -

Les Sioux pos­sèdent une grande ré­serve dans la par­tie mé­ri­dio­nale du Da­ko­ta du Sud. Si l’al­cool est in­ter­dit sur leur ter­ri­toire ce n’était, jus­qu’au mois der­nier, pas le cas à Whiteclay, un village si­tué juste der­rière la fron­tière du Ne­bras­ka où se ven­daient jus­qu’à cinq mil­lions de ca­nettes de bière par an. Après une longue ba­taille ju­ri­dique, les quatre ma­ga­sins ont fer­mé leurs portes… tem­po­rai­re­ment ?

The Pine Ridge In­dian re­ser­va­tion in South Da­ko­ta, the site of the bat­tle of Woun­ded Knee, contains one of the poo­rest coun­ties in Ame­ri­ca; and eve­ry one of its re­si­dents is af­fec­ted, in some way, by al­co­ho­lism. So says Ro­bert Brave Heart se­nior, one of the lea­ders of Red Cloud, a pri­vate Ca­tho­lic school foun­ded in 1888 by Je­suits at the re­quest of Red Cloud, a chief of the Ogla­la La­ko­ta, the tribe of Cra­zy Horse. Most of his people, says Mr Brave Heart, can­not drink al­co­hol in mo­de­ra­tion. He thinks he is one of them. Af­ter bad ex­pe­riences with booze as a tee­na­ger, he has not tou­ched al­co­hol for 40 years.


2. Al­co­hol has been ban­ned in Pine Ridge since 1889, ex­cept for a few months in the 1970s. Yet two-thirds of adults on the re­ser­va­tion are al­co­ho­lics; al­co­hol-fuel­led do­mes­tic vio­lence is ram­pant; and one in four ba­bies born on the re­ser­va­tion is ir­re­ver­si­bly da­ma­ged by fe­tal-al­co­hol syn­drome, a range of neu­ro­lo­gi­cal de­fects cau­sed by mo­thers drin­king al­co­hol du­ring pre­gnan­cy. 3.One of the main sources of al­co­hol for the re­ser­va­tion’s re­si­dents is Whiteclay, a ti­ny ham­let of 11 re­si­dents just a short walk away across the state line in Ne­bras­ka. Whiteclay, which has no school and no gro­ce­ry shop, seems to exist so­le­ly to sell booze. On April 19th Ne­bras­ka’s state li­quor board vo­ted to re­voke the li­cences of Whiteclay’s four li­quor stores, which are due to ex­pire on April 30th. They ar­gued that the town is not well en­ough po­li­ced: rea­son en­ough to re­voke a li­cence. A lawyer for the shops said at once that his clients would ap­peal.

4. Ac­ti­vists such as Frank LaMere, a mem­ber of the Win­ne­ba­go tribe, who has fought for 22 years to shut down the shops, are ju­bi­lant about the state board’s de­ci­sion. They argue that the shops have been ma­king im­mo­ral pro­fits from the mi­se­ry of vul­ne­rable re­si­dents of the re­ser­va­tion. Last year the shops sold an as­to­ni­shing 3.6m cans of beer, or se­ven cans per mi­nute, al­most all to the La­ko­ta Sioux.


5. Yet Mr Brave Heart and others are scep­ti­cal about the li­cence re­vo­ca­tion. They say those who want to drink will sim­ply drive to get their booze far­ther afield, which will in­crease both the al­rea­dy high num­ber of fa­tal drunk-dri­ving car crashes, and boot­leg­ging. “Al­co­ho­lism is a so­cial and spi­ri­tual pro­blem,” says Mr Brave Heart. It can­not be re­ver­sed with the stroke of a pen.

6.Pat­ty Pan­sing Brooks, a De­mo­cra­tic state se­na­tor from Ne­bras­ka, is the au­thor of the bill crea­ting the Whiteclay pu­blic health emer­gen­cy task-force, which una­ni­mous­ly pas­sed the uni­ca­me­ral sta­te­house on April 24th. She agrees that it will take more than pro­hi­bi­tion to help the al­co­ho­lics in Pine Ridge. Ms Pan­sing Brooks wants a sub­sta­tion of the Ne­bras­ka state pa­trol set up in Whiteclay, as well as de­mo­li­tion of aban­do­ned buil­dings where crime and traf­fi­cking are rife. She al­so wants to create a de­tox centre with a job-trai­ning pro­gramme, and pro­mote eco­no­mic de­ve­lop­ment by gi­ving re­si­dents ac­cess to wi­re­less broad­band. She says she feels a du­ty to do so­me­thing be­cause of her state’s com­pli­ci­ty in des­troying the tribe. 7.Her ef­forts are ba­cked by Tom Bre­wer, Ne­bras­ka’s first Na­tive-Ame­ri­can state se­na­tor, who grew up on the Pine Ridge re­ser­va­tion. As a staunch Re­pu­bli­can, he is at the other end of the po­li­ti­cal spec­trum, but the two se­na­tors are uni­ted in their ou­trage at what is hap­pe­ning in Pine Ridge.

8.More than half—per­haps 80%—of its adults are unem­ployed. About half live be­low the fe­de­ral po­ver­ty line. Al­most one-third are ho­me­less. Men die, on ave­rage, at 47 and wo­men at 55. Al­most half the po­pu­la­tion ol­der than 40 is dia­be­tic. The in­fant mor­ta­li­ty rate is triple the na­tio­nal ave­rage, the sui­cide rate of tee­na­gers is more than double and obe­si­ty is an even big­ger pro­blem than in the rest of the Mid­west.

9. Stu­dents of jour­na­lism at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ne­bras­ka, Lin­coln re­cent­ly pro- du­ced a wide-ran­ging re­port on the im­pact of the li­quor shops on the re­ser­va­tion. It was cal­led “The Wounds of Whiteclay: Ne­bras­ka’s Sha­me­ful Le­ga­cy”. Those wounds will take a long time to heal, if they ever do.

Al­co­hol has been ban­ned in Pine Ridge since 1889.

(Mark Da­vis/AP/SIPA)

A truck de­li­ve­ring al­co­hol to bars and li­quor stores in Whiteclay, Neb. be­fore it tri­ck­led to a halt.

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