Just saw the documentary made around the booze challenge in the Whiteclay/Pine Ridge area (see it at: http://onkwehonwerising.wordpress.com/
on the right-hand side) and a few things came to mind. i thought i'd try to share some of them here since i didn't see a place at the link to do so. Maybe i can get "a ball rolling" on this in a different way...? Even tho i write "imperfectly" and this may come off as a bit scattered (heh).
ONE: Are there too many blocks on rezes to setting up some kind of informal (non-professional-controlled) camp for the drinkers to go to "drink deeply"/spiritually? A place where they can drink freely but are *adequately* backed up (housing or tenting) AND intervened-on, when need be, by traditionally-minded/oriented champions --so that they realize the value of such community and friendships and don't do all the things that is making the rest of the community want to restrict them into oblivion?
--And force *all* to get stuck in the traps set up by b.i.a. design (i.e. stuck in the tar pit of expensive funding and suddenly not having such).
A place where they can use their 'poison of choice' in things such as a talking circle (i thought, why not use a bottle of booze in place of the talisman, for one, as a PROCESS approach, not disrespectful!). Accept this basic in order to make a bridge
! Why not?? Cynical "drunks" would be VERY SURPRISED, for one.
To try such approaches would be a way around having them forever beating themselves up inside their heads and seeking numbing escape from all their/our painful realities. To not merely "put a bandaid" over their symptoms of feeling OVERWHELMED; but to WORK THROUGH their stuff, for however long it takes, with traditionals (i.e. youth and Strong Hearters), all while staying within traditional excellence, somehow!But it appears that Pine Ridge Lakota are caught up in some sort of fundamentalism about traditions, and since "drinking isn't traditional" amongst the Lakota (as someone pointed out in the film), then there's no place whatsoever to even investigate it and its users' desire????
Wow. Here, i recall the Onkwehonwe/Kanienkehaka warrior, G. Taiaiake Alfred, instructional. He points out that traditions are meant as guidelines, not laws written in stone. Not as unmovable strictures, such as biblical dogmas. They are anciently wise guidelines, and strong communities use them, while building on their strength via the input of community members --all.
i've spoken about this before, and have been surprised that NEITHER Wayne Martin Sr (of the Lakota Strong Heart Society) or Russell Means (a past heavy drinker and fighter himself, as he spoke of in his first book) --both in the spearhead of the momentum to restrict open drinking-- have seemed to have ever tried something even close. OR maybe it was???? What with Means' T.R.E.A.T.Y. school and all. Maybe it IS happening; but since it wasn't mentioned in the documentary
...? Maybe they just cannot discuss it openly (i.e. since the b.i.a. wants to block traditionals from autonomy via every sneaky trick in its inventory)?
Not knowing if it's possible, i want to put some ideas out there (i did a comix story that touched on this one awhile back, as well):
Imagine this some more (and i would think i am not the first to have!):A place where champions come to meet eye to eye and speak and be around each other deeply, but only soberly; not only via even traditional approaches. A place where all sides gather to practice bridging. A place where drinking champions (!) can grapple deeply with their intensities, but not only their own. Via sweats, via depth solidarity, via mutual listening --becoming deep, becoming powerful. All informally. All without big titles needing lotsa cash. A place where people angry with drunkards are heard, and at the same time, where drunkards can ALSO be listened to and stuck with in solidarity (with their humanity).
Is such informal community possible???? Maybe there are too many obstacles put in the way???? Can anyone here name even one?
Look, i'm not coming from "a vacuum" here. i have quite a lot of experience informally interacting with "street drunks" (as well as "drinking families"), especially Native/Indigenous people (i am not paid to do such things, nor have "the credentials", nor would i want them).
While living on the street myself (back when i lived in a vehicle), for one.
And my approach has always been to befriend these hardened noncooperating champions! (Recalling, here, someone in AIM --John Trudell, i think, talking to author Paola Igliori-- once pointing out that AIM originally (back in the '70s when it began in Minneapolis) would not have had anyone to speak to and START WITH if no street drunkards had been around. Because the drunkards were the ONLY champion dissenters then. They weren't cooperating with colonialism! They didn't give a flying f***! They had been through the gamut of excrement put out in myriad ways by colonization and they weren't backing down! Spiraling out of their power, yes, but strong in their stance of basic NONCOOPERATION.
Some of my own experiences in all of this (identifying with 'em intuitively):
i think of the many Native/Indigenous "drunks" i've known over the last 20-plus years and i think of people like Herman N. (Inuit, who is likely passed on by now), who got publicly drunk with his buddies, but always put them first; i remember once (after having gotten to know him a little by then over a few weeks) i at age 21 had asked to take him to eat at my place and he had me take his more drunk friend! Interesting! Well, over time we got to liking and trusting each other enough that we would hug whenever we saw each other. And when i left, i took some art i made in his honor and put it on a sweater and gave it to him. Here was a "street drunk" who was "doing something more than met the eyes of" those who seem so ready to judge and criminalize people and ignore their humanity.
Their stories. Their power. Their cultural approach, no matter how off-balance.
How about the Vietnam vet i knew in Portland, Oregon more recently? He told me he had been a u.s. marine who had crawled around in underground tunnels killing Vietcong. (not thinking it through, just following orders) Now, at the end of his life, he was on the street. Maybe he had been booted out of his Coast Salish territory for being too wild? I don't know. I never heard his full story, tho i spent many a night getting inebriated (lightly compared to he and his friends; it never took much for me!). His name was Evan Ishman and he passed on recently, so i feel okay saying his name openly. He used to often be arrested or picked up by the drunkard van, and come right back the next day. No matter what the state did. No matter what kind of threats they made (i figure). That was something i learned from him: to keep coming back no matter what.
What a power he had.
Tho had become so isolated (how????) that that was about all the power he could readily show. (He was a survivor, having lived on the street, drunk, all those years, apparently)
i can name a bunch of other Indigenous (and non-Indigenous) folks i met on the street (or near it) over the last 20 or so years now. And they all had good sides! Uppity (yeah!). Not cooperating with the system! WoW!
Tho i was living in a vehicle, myself "homeless", i have often informally fed (and otherwise aided) these fellow human beings and have given space for them to sleep (especially in the winter); and tho i didn't have heat, i at least had protective walls from the wind! i have also lived in drinker-inclusive housing, witnessing the fights and sometime heated arrests, and general anarchic activity of the drunken people, both angry and "nice". And have known a few Native families over the years who were stuck in what i'd now call superficial drinking (without knowing if that was in fact the case).
And yet i see possible approaches. And have practiced what i "preach" (i am a NAC member). So why aren't these approaches more widely tried??
TWO: Appearances move me to think that what look like "protection via restriction" ways of allegedly solving a problem --trying to BLOCK booze drunkards in Lakota territory-- are on par with tactics used by aboriginals in canada. That is, a side of Native that seeks to assimilate well within b.i.a.-centric neo-colonial designs.
The film shows what looks like canadian aboriginal-like assimilating tactics, except that Russell Means is involved. So it's hard to puzzle that one out. Why is someone like Russell involved in something that looks like a bunch of assimilators pushing their rigid values on everyone else? Probably because there's A LOT MORE GOING ON THAN THE FILM ADEQUATELY BRINGS FORTH. Next time, i think they should HAMMER ON THAT ONE FIRMLY, at the very least!
Maybe a lot of the drunks are surviving GOONs, or from the families of GOONs (recall the b.i.a. puppet government of Dickie Wilson and his henchmen)? Or maybe what we're seeing is what happens when generations of drunkards kill, maim, and abuse each other and innocent bystanders, without adequate intervention allowed? i don't know. But i would like to know, as it could help inform me in my own work.
Thank you for having a place like this!