By Vi Waln
Rumors and gossip are behaviors unbecoming to Lakota people. Yet, I realize a lot of you thrive on adding more distorted tidbits to an outlandish tale another person has told you. Many reporters can tell you about the calls or emails they receive on an issue or event that people ask them to write about. Our reputation as writers only goes as far as our ability to accurately report a chain of events, or address controversial issues.
Over the years, I’ve had many people talk to me about something they would like to see printed in the newspaper. I’ve dealt with honest people who sincerely want the public to read about an important issue, as well as people who want to see dramatic stories in print. It’s unfortunate that many prefer sensationalism, instead of reading an accurate account of what happened.
People are actually addicted to the negativity happening every day in their community. We need to examine why that is, because when we thrive on talking about drama, even when it isn’t true, we miss seeing the areas of our lives which need improving. There are always areas in our lives or family needing attention. Personally, I would rather focus on myself and my immediate family. I make a choice not to waste energy focusing on negative events happening in my community.
This past week on the Rosebud was a prime example of negativity, gossip and sensationalism. It all started when the Testing-Demo-Cleaning Department (TDC) of Sicangu Wiconi Awayankapi (SWA) gave a demonstration to the Tribal Council at a meeting I didn’t attend or watch. The demonstration entailed a process followed when SWA is faced with testing a house allegedly contaminated by methamphetamine use by a tenant.
Since I didn’t attend that particular meeting, I was later informed by a tribal council representative that there was a set agenda with SWA in attendance to address homeless issues and the prevalence of meth use on Rosebud. SWA did give a presentation on meth testing, due to the number of houses being contaminated. One council representative had questions on the specifics of testing the housing units, so SWA was asked to bring their machine and demonstrate.
Testing was done, and as unofficially reported through an online blog, some of the furniture in the Council Chambers tested positive. Tribal Council then requested impromptu testing of all representatives present, as well as all the employees working in the tribal building. In addition, the tribal building was shut down on Thursday afternoon for further testing and sanitation by SWA employees, as requested by tribal officials. The tribal building was open again on Friday.
There were many stories uttered on the reservation about this incident. I thought it was pretty crazy, as many of the stories sounded extremely far-fetched. But that is the nature of rumors and gossip, the more something is repeated, the more skewed it gets. The fact that some local people I once thought highly of were repeating stories sounding absolutely ridiculous, made me wonder why I thought so highly of them in the first place.
Tribal council set an example by ordering drug tests. Many tribal citizens would like to see all tribal directors and employees tested too. Drug test results are confidential. Still, I believe the mass drug testing of all tribal employees could possibly weed out (no pun intended) substance abusers from our programs. Drug and alcohol addicts bring down overall productivity. Our tribe cannot move forward when the majority of its members are addicted to substances, whether they are legal (vodka, beer, morphine or hydrocodone) or illegal (meth, heroin, etc.).
Drugs are poisons. When we ingest any type of drug, legal or illegal, our bodies tend to work to remove the poison. Our body excrements, such as sweat, urine and feces, contain waste matter. Whatever poison you are using, like vodka or meth, also leaves your body when you sweat or use the restroom. And when you are sweating, the toxins contained in the sweat will be absorbed by your clothing, as well as the surfaces you come into contact with.
The general public does have access to the council chambers, as well as most of the offices in the tribal building. Lots of people sit on the chairs in that building. Lots of people lean on the tables and against the walls. These actions leave behind sweat and body oils, along with whatever substance the person has ingested. So, it was no surprise that certain areas in the tribal building tested positive for drugs. After all, we do have a wide-spread drug problem that is out of control. I’m sure a lot of drug users visit the tribal office on a daily basis for a variety of reasons.
I’m in favor of testing all elected tribal officials, as well as all tribal directors, tribal employees and political appointees. Testing everyone will send a message that our tribe is serious about eradicating drug users on the payroll. But let’s not forget how many of our people who don’t work for the tribe are actively using drugs. People who use drugs also regularly visit the hospital, university and other program buildings. It’s really not fair to place all the blame on the tribal workforce or elected officials.
Alcoholics and drug addicts need prayers. They need help. The families who are dealing with them also need help. Our children are precious and are being exposed to dangerous drugs that people my age knew nothing about while we were growing up. It’s going to take all of us working hard to clean up our tribe.
Does anyone besides me wonder how things would change if people chose to pray instead of repeating wild rumors?