Yellow Bird: Committing to a lifetime of sobriety
"When I was a young mother and lived in Oregon, I met many leaders in the Washington and Oregon areas. I was surprised to find that some of the strongest leaders had been alcoholic at one time but now wouldn’t taste a drop because of a commitment they’d made to themselves and the Creator.

In my 15 years at the Sundance, I find that same kind of commitment to the Indian way. You are not supposed to indulge in alcohol or any drugs if you are going to enter the sacred circle of the Sundance. It is a commitment to a way of life — not just during the ceremony, but throughout your entire life.

A friend from the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota told me that he quit drinking because he took up the Sacred Pipe and follows the “Red Road” way of life.

Yet, you have to wonder: Why, given that Indian culture is so prominent on some reservations, is alcoholism still such a problem?

In my view, young people think alcohol is their rite of passage into adulthood. Some never return to a sober lifestyle, and there are others we bury in the arms of Mother Earth. But those who do come through the passage may be stronger people because they seem to understand the evil of alcoholism.

I would like to see Indian people of all ages take a strong hand in keeping our people alive, healthy and alcohol- and drug-free. I would like the change to come from within our communities, from those strong men and women who understand the tight grip that alcohol and drugs can have on a person — and how those addictions can latch on even after one experimental use."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: ‘Red Road’ leads to a better life (The Grand Forks Herald 8/30)
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