To solve alcoholism, Native Americans must look inside reservations – USA TODAY

The problems in Indian country may not simply be the result of generational trauma or of white people out to harm them today.

At the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Whiteclay, Neb.(Photo: Chris Huber, AP)

Last month, Nebraska officials voted to revoke the licenses of four liquor stores near the border of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is supposed to be a dry reservation but its residents regularly procure alcohol from these stores. Tribal officials argue that if these stores were closed, residents would have limited access to liquor and the high rates of alcohol abuse on the reservation would diminish. Since the reservation is almost 3,500 ostensibly alcohol-free square miles, it seems unlikely that cutting off these stores is going to stem the tide.

Like many of the responses by American Indian leaders to the scourge of drugs and alcohol on reservations, this one seems unlikely to improve matters because it pretends that the problems lie mostly off the reservation. The Cherokee tribe, for instance, recently filed a class-action suit against Walmart, CVS and Walgreens for not doing more to stop illegal opioid prescriptions from being filled by residents of its territory.

It’s true that something has to be done. Indian youth have the highest rates of alcohol use disorders of any racial group in the country, according to the National Institutes of Health. And among some tribes, the rates of fetal alcohol syndrome are as high as 1.5 to 2.5 per 1,000 live births, compared to the general population, which is between 0.2 and 1.0.

American Indians have a long and difficult history with alcohol and there is certainly plenty of reason to blame the early settlers for introducing liquor to Natives. In the early 19th century, Indian agents

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