Maka Clifford, 25
Lakota studies teacher, graduate of the University of San Francisco and Columbia University Teachers College
I'm very much on the fence. I suppose I'm leaning toward yes, but with lots of caveats. To me, the whole conversation is misdirected, and doesn't get at the real issues that I grew up with, and that now — having been away from the rez for a long time and coming back — I see again. Many people who are so fiercely on one side of the issue or the other just aren't asking the central question to me, which is what do we do about addiction? What are we doing about the conditions that allow for addiction? Whichever way [the vote] goes, it could be an opportunity for a much larger conversation about what we do about the poverty, the lack of development, the reasons why some people turn to addiction, and how to address those issues.
It's interesting, going to college in a major city like San Francisco, and then [living] in Japan between getting my bachelor's and getting my master's in New York City. The alcohol culture in the those big cities and the alcohol culture in Japan are just so different from the reservation. In those places the culture, the alcohol drinking culture, is very leisurely. It's not aggressive. In Japan in particular, it's very controlled, very nonthreatening, it doesn't necessarily carry a lot of the same implications that it does here. So something that I gathered from living there is that in other places in the world, people are taught to drink. And I think here, people are taught to get drunk. It's not arbitrary, it's historical. The development of a drunk culture vs. a culture that drinks on occasion. I see the possibility of alcohol being not a problem, and yet that's so contradictory to the way I grew up here. Because it was such a rare occasion when someone could enjoy it in a leisurely, casual way.