We start our week with a story that hurts our heart – yet another piece about gangs in Indian Country. (See the above video from, of all places, Al Jazeera.) Today’s New York Times has a story that, like the video, focuses mainly on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
There, according to the Times’ Erik Eckholm, more than 5,000 young Oglala Lakota men are involved in 39 different gangs with names like Tre Tre Crips, Wild Boyz, TBZ, Nomads and Indian Mafia that are exponentially increasing the amount of crime and violence on the reservation.
Perhaps what’s saddest of all about this is the same thing about gang violence among other ethnic groups in urban areas – the people they kill are their own. The video that accompanies the story is heartbreaking.
The problem has drawn the attention of the Obama administration. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a special hearing this summer on the issue.
But that was in Washington, D.C., far from the isolated and poorly patrolled prairie towns where people fear their homes will be burglarized or they will be assaulted if they go out at night.
As they wait for help from Washington, tribes such as the Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge are taking matters in their own hands, pushing cultural identity as an antidote.
“We’re trying to give an identity back to our youth,” Melvyn Young Bear, tribal cultural liaison tells Eckholm. “They’re into the subculture of African-Americans and Latinos. But they are Lakota, and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Yes, they do.