Chairman Flute advocates “Banishment” as a traditional way to tackle the use and abuse of methamphetamine on the Lake Traverse Reservation. In the 26 April 2017 edition of The Chairman’s Corner1, he proposes three (3) levels of banishment with penalties ranging from banishment from “all Tribal property” for first time offenders, all the way to a 25-year-to-life banishment for third offenses. He fails to state clearly which offenses would count for his three strike policies, although the article begins with “increasing penalties for those that continue to manufacture meth and smoke meth in our community.” There is a big difference between smoking meth to manufacturing meth. Furthermore, he offers no evidence to support that banishment will decrease meth use and abuse.
Banishment as Public Policy
Before allowing Council to vote “Yes”, the entire Oyate needs to be well-informed about the details of this policy and how it will be applied fairly to all. Banishment may be the current fad amongst tribes battling meth and other drugs, but there is no evidence as of yet that it would be effective in curbing methamphetamine usage and abuse. Currently the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Allakaket Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Tribe have all boarded the Banishment Train specific to meth. Chairman Flute singles out methamphetamine for banishment without including other destructive or addictive behaviors like embezzling, gambling, alcohol, nicotine use, other drug abuse, or deviant sexual behaviors like child molestation and rape.
If the Oyate wishes to go forward with banishment, we should do it in a careful, studious way to determine if it really impacts methamphetamine use. We have many resources to do this including our own Research Office (with an established Institutional Review Board to ensure the rights of the participants), Law Enforcement, Community Health practitioners, and other clinical and ancillary providers in our community. If done properly, a research-based approach would inform all Tribal Leaders on just how effective banishment is, because right now, there is no data to support this action.
Some say banishment is just another way of disenfranchising Tribal Members. Donna Ellis2 goes so far to state that
Banishment is another form of cultural genocide and an example of internalized oppression
Prior to leaping to banishment, in addition to current efforts, we should try evidence-based approaches to prevention, harm-reduction, treatment, and recovery. Options include increasing funding for youth activities, harm-reduction strategies like needle exchanges, and evidence-based recovery models like SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training).
Chairman Flute touts banishment as “Traditional”, but is stripping Tribal Members of access to their identity and culture really the Dakotah Way?
1 Flute, “Chairman’s Corner – Updating the Oyate”, Sota Iya Ye Yapi, 26 April 2017, Accessed on 25 April 2017. [Time travel is just one of my many skills.]
2 Ellis, “The High Cost of Tribal Banishment”, Indian Country Today, 7 October 2014. Accessed on 25 April 2017.
Meth Paraphernalia: https://www.pinterest.com/juliaogles99/speed/?lp=true, Accessed 25 April 2017
Policy Stages: http://www.giarts.org/article/tools-support-public-policy-grantmaking, Accessed 25 April 2017