May 19, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: A Life Devoted to Indigenous Youth
In November of 2000, Mike Stevens was on top of his game. His time was spent recording, touring and performing in renowned concert venues like the Grand Ole Opry.
As he toured, he made a habit of reading the local news in the community where he was set to perform. While on a stopover in Goose Bay, Labrador, there was one story that led him to Sheshatshiu, a Innu community not far from Goose Bay. That trip would forever change his life.
Stevens approached a group of young people openly sniffing gas by the side of the road.
"To be honest, at first, I was afraid. I was scared because they were by a fire," says Stevens. "They had bags of gasoline to their faces and they were sniffing gas."
But then the unexpected happened.
"They started to ask me about my family and where I was from," says Stevens. "We had a conversation that you couldn't have with kids that age anywhere in any part of Canada."
Solving Alcoholism Needs to Start Within
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.
But many Indian leaders believe that people inside of these communities are perpetuating the problem. Ben Chavis — a Lumbee Indian who has worked with Apache, Lumbee, Papago, Pomo, Pima, Yaqui and Navajo Indians — says the closing liquor stores won’t do any good. He thinks that the move in Nebraska is the result of “bootleggers” on reservations who are trying “to prevent competition… Closing liquor stores near Indian communities will be good for [them].”
So what can be done?
No Running Water... We're Not Talking About a Third World Country
On the outskirts of Monument Valley, touching the Arizona-Utah border, a water well is encased in a brick building behind a barb-wired fence. A few cattle graze nearby, mooing to occasionally pierce the quiet.
Residents say the well is one of two in the area, a couple miles from a small town on the Navajo Reservation. One well is a direct line to hotels. This one, leading to a one-spigot watering hole a few miles away, is the main water supply for about 900 people living nearby.
The first residents of the day, with big plastic bottles and buckets lining truck beds and packed into car trunks as they drive along miles of rock-strewn, dirt roads, start to arrive.
Can the U.S Learn from the N.T.?
Australia's aboriginal people find themselves in the same situations and circumstances as Native Americans and First Nations People. Maybe we can learn from each other?