02 October 2011

Finding The Red Road

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation sits on the border of South Dakota and Nebraska. The reservation is “dry.” Not only are alcohol sales against the law, but just the possession of it, in your car or home can result in a fine. Just 200 feet to the south of the reservation sits the community of Whiteclay, in Nebraska. Whiteclay has a population of 14. In this unincorporated village sits four off-sale liquor stores. On the average over 11,000 cans of beer are sold each day, mostly to Indian clientele. Most of these people walk from Whiteclay, spending days there – drinking. Since all sales are off-sales, everyone is drinking illegally. In deserted buildings are old mattresses to sleep on, but at times, some pass out in front of stores or right on the road.

The Sioux Tribal government has asked the state of Nebraska to step in and halt sales of alcohol in Whiteclay, but the state seems unwilling to help. The state collects a quarter of a million dollars a year in sales and liquor taxes from the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay, with no money being returned to the Lakota people to deal with the problems alcohol presents on the reservation.

These liquor stores have been fined for after hour sales, selling to minors, and selling alcohol on credit. Alcoholism on the reservation is at 80%, with 53% living below the poverty line. Unemployment stands at 33% and the dropout rate is at 31%. Close to a quarter of the people have no phone or plumbing. If this weren’t going on in our own backyard, the United Nations would have all sorts of world relief programs in effect.

"The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross, the place is holy." Black Elk from 'Black Elk Speaks'

Finding The Red Road

A Nation must follow the red road,
the road of wisdom and strength.
A road scarred by the massacre,
at Wounded Knee, breaking the sacred hoop.
A heritage must be remembered.
Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull,
Red Cloud and Black Elk,
walked this road,
believed in this road.
The road of the good,
Grandfather said,
“on it shall your nation walk.”

Black Elk, a wise man, a visionary,
said the seventh generation,
shall restore the hoop,
or a Nation will die.
This generation is upon us,
confused and lost, others dead,
due to Wasichus firewater.

They travel the path of the black road,
the road of destruction.
They hear and see ghosts…
ghosts of Whiteclay.
Lives cut short, we stand and watch.
The Sioux Nation struggles,
for a past they need to find.
Poverty, addiction, unemployment…
a future that’s hard to understand.

A Nation searching, for the old ways,
the spiritual and cultural practices,
of their ancestors.
Pow Wows attract the old,
and now… the next generation!
Sun Dances bring renewal,
faith, hope, and pride!
Once again, finding pride,
in being a member of,
The Great Sioux Nation.
They will follow the red road,
forgetting the black road,
and destroying Whiteclay.
Pray to Grandfather…
to restore the sacred hoop…


  1. Some thoughts from Authors Den...

    Reviewed by E T Waldron 5/30/2005
    Dave thank you for sharing this information. Your poem is outstanding and I loved reading it! I pray that they will find a solution for this problem.

    Reviewed by m j hollingshead 5/30/2005
    good one

    Reviewed by Felix Perry 5/30/2005
    This is a stark write but I have no doubt that all is true and you have presented your facts after your poem perfectly and now we will see if the road can be found without interference. Well Done Dave.

    Reviewed by Janet Parker 5/30/2005
    This is so informative and well written. I'm afraid I have been ignorant of these people, but I'm going to check out the website.

    Reviewed by Ed Matlack 5/30/2005
    Never have I even met a real native american, living in NJ there are few left! Specifically the Lenni-Lenape indians but most are so intermixed with other nationalities that to meet one or even know one is to know most anyone on the street...I truly and honestly feel for these people you speak of and as well wish that the government of Nebraska would get up off its respective ass and do something, anything, not to mention the UNited States government doing something other than ignoring that which they did start so many years ago...I hope at the very least these native americans find Peace, Ed & Rufuz

    Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 5/30/2005
    Very informative write Dave!! Thanks for sharing!!

    Reviewed by L. Figgins 5/30/2005
    Powerful and transcending write. The Lakota have a proud and bittersweet heritage. The White Buffalo has been seen you know, so there is hope for unity again. This is beautifully written, Dave! It's so sad that the bottom line takes precedent over the fate of human souls...

    Reviewed by Andy Turner (Reader) 5/30/2005
    I best get off the yellow brick one. Fast.

    This reminds me of when I worked in South Dakota.
    Informative, Dave..

  2. more thoughts from Authors Den...

    Reviewed by Kate Clifford 5/5/2006
    It all comes down to money doesn't it? This is where the change need to start. Nature will do it if no body else does.........

    Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU 6/1/2005

    A true poetic compliance delivering the wake up bells.
    "Finding The Red Road" has voiced a call for Justice.

    Reviewed by Robert Williams 5/31/2005
    The plight of the indigenous Americans is similar to that of the Palestinians. Both are maintained on reservations through welfare handouts and they hide themselves in bottles. Alcohol is banned in Palestine too, but too many are drunk. The victims cannot free themselves of their prison generated by their masters. It is interesting to note that alcoholism remains high amongst the Irish who were the first to experience the reservation system when the British impounded them all at Conemaugh. Structuralism teaches us that the Irish, Native Americans, and Palestinians will continue to suffer until they are free - England out of Ireland, Uncle Sam out of America, and Israel out of Palestine. Until then, there is no "Red Road".

    Reviewed by jude forese 5/31/2005
    you have written a soulful poem of the plight of a once prideful nation that has succumbed to the abuse and neglect of the "white man" ...

    Reviewed by Kate Burnside 5/31/2005
    This is a fascinating feature which I am sure would court world-interest from media were it to be highlighted in the right way; can see why American powers might not want too many to be made aware, but the BBC would probably be quite into it! And we naively assume that their is still an idyllic existance to be had amongst some of these tribal communities. But the spiritual power is available, according to its own suggested prophecy, to find a way through this. If we look beyond the material and deeply into these things, those who believe them have access to the power that will ultimately bring the process of change about. And these wonderful and richly diverse peoples are steeped in such belief and such power. Perhaps the darkest hours are just before the dawn... I do hope and pray so. TY for bringing this to our attention. LOL Kate xx