Last night as I watched the ABC 20/20 special Children of the Plains I waited for the moment that finally the epidemic of this state and our reservation system would be mentioned. I watched a show that was very carefully put together and was so moving. I watched a show that showed some of the huge issues facing the children of the plains. It was an incredible show but again never was Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) mentioned. I don’t know if perhaps someone did not tell the producers about how this is decimating the Lakota people. I wonder if they understand what we see every day when we look into the eyes of our beautiful and strong children. The children who have been hunters and warriors for generations who cannot fight off the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol. No matter what we teach them or do for them now they cannot overcome the damage that was done.
This does not mean that our children will not become important and awesome people. It does mean that their path is even harder than it would have been just growing up in a place that is equal to that of the poorest site in the nation. The show mentioned the fact that the teen pregnancy rate is three times that of the rest of the nation and that alcoholism is effecting about 80% of the adults here. It forgot to mention that the infant mortality rate on Pine Ridge Reservation is truly that of a third world country. This culture will not make it without changing some things. My children deserve better. They deserve a future. The future of a beautiful culture and to be able to be proud of a culture that is deserving of PRIDE!
FASD is not the problem of just this state nor is it the problem of just the Native American culture. This is an issue that is worldwide. This is an issue that will never be solved if we cannot work toward a greater understanding of the devastating effects alcohol consumption (not just alcoholism, all alcohol consumption) during pregnancy is. We do not know of a SAFE amount, so we have to say zero for the time you are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant. I know people think that one drink once in a while is not a big deal but I ask is it worth it???
I am proud that my children will know that they are from a great people. I want them to be able to be proud of the culture that is so important. I pray that somehow finally this epidemic of alcoholism and prenatal exposure can be stopped. We must continue to fight and never stop no matter how hard it is. We will continue to cry out even if our voice is never heard.
FASD is a permanent disability with no cure. FASD is preventable. FASD cannot be about blame but about moving forward to find a positive possibility for a population currently being ignored. This is not an issue we can continue to sweep under the rug and ignore…it is not going away.