Tribal members voted 1,843 to 1,678 to end the ban on alcohol sales on the Pine Ridge Reservation this week.
The vote came after months, even years, of contentious meetings, outcry and even threats on the issue.
As Bradon Ecoffey, Native Sun News managing editor, reported a last minute vote to add polling places for members to vote after a tribal council member raised concerns about the fewer number of polling places.
The council (passed) an emergency resolution allowing for the opening of additional polling sites on the reservation and would also release funding for the establishment of these voting centers.
A New York Times story detailed the divisions caused by the issue leading up to this week’s vote to legalize the sale of a drug that has at times been one of the reservation’s “greatest enemies.”
Tribal members will have three days to challenge the result, but the election chairman, Francis Pumpkin Seed, said the burden to get a vote struck down was high in that whoever complains would have to prove that election law was violated.
While supporters say legalization will allow them to regulate alcohol and earn money from sales, critics worry that it will only worsen the tribe’s problems.
“How far are we going to let it go?” asked Bryan Brewer, the tribal president, who is staunchly against legalizing alcohol. “How many more children are going to be murdered because of this?”
. . .
Ron Duke, Pine Ridge’s chief of police, said that while he did not personally support opening the reservation up to alcohol sales, legalizing it would free his officers from responding to calls in which there is a complaint about an inebriated person or the presence of alcohol inside a home — which he said took up the vast majority of an officer’s time.
But Chief Duke said that he expected the easier availability of alcohol to lead to a sharp rise in violence, which will challenge a department whose 37 officers are responsible for patrolling an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Chief Duke’s two daugthers were killed in alcohol related car accidents, the NYT’s story said.