ICT: Whiteclay: Oglala Lakota Lawsuit Keeps Alcohol Problem on Front Burner
By Mary Annette Pember
As a Native American woman and recovering alcoholic I am grateful for Whiteclay, Nebraska for the simple reason that it keeps the disease of alcoholism and addiction right where it needs to be for our people: front and center.
Having seen many failures and successes in sobriety, I am convinced that the message in the often-quoted recovery phrase willingness to do whatever it takes is the key to successful sobriety.
The Oglala Lakota lawsuit against beer companies and stores in Whiteclay is a bold step that reveals the communities desperation. Social and health services on the reservation are overwhelmed. As a recovering alcoholic, however, I see their desperation as a good thing. It is helping the community gain the willingness to put aside shame, embarrassment, denial and public censure. Although the lawsuit may be destined for failure, it could be an important move towards changing the public narrative surrounding alcoholism as a disease of “choice.”
In an earlier article in ICTMN, Terri Hansen wrote about the research of two Native women journalists who were examining the way in which diabetes is also framed in the popular press as a disease of choice. They compared this perspective with the way in which tobacco addiction has changed in the public view and how greater understanding of the addiction has resulted in increased public funding for anti smoking programming. They also noted how the public subsequently exerted greater pressure on tobacco companies to take responsibility for their roles in this public health crisis.