A 6-year-old died an accident involving a drunk driver just south of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The girl, Christina Roubideaux, along with 5 others were in a minivan traveling along a gravel road leading to the reservation in Oglala, South Dakota.
Roubideaux suffered fatal injuries after the van flipped and rolled on the road several times, passing away the day after the incident.
Kimberly Eagle Bull has been identified as the driver and was arrested for suspicion of vehicular homicide and DUI. Some blame the increased number of DUI cases on the closing of liquor stores located in Whiteclay, just outside of the reservation. Alcohol is prohibited on the reservation, as it is the cause of a vast number of issues plaguing the residents.
The small village of Whiteclay only has about nine occupants, but the four stores annually sell the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer. The nearest law enforcement if 23 miles away, leaving Whiteclay open to fights and loiterers.
Lawmakers believe that closing the stores lessens the problems of drinking on the reservation, but others say it makes the problem more severe. Rushville Mayor Chris Heiser was quoted saying “the folks are going to travel to get their alcohol.”
The Pines reservation has long battled the endemic of alcohol addiction their many residents suffer from. About two-thirds of adults on the reservation suffer from alcoholism, while 1-in-4 children are born with a disorder known as fetal alcohol syndrome.
The Guardian conducted several interviews with those living on the reservation, and all of them had either dealt with alcoholism themselves or had a family member struggle with it. One story comes from a Lakota woman named Olowan Martinez. She recalls her childhood, accompanying her mother to the town of Whiteclay and watching her drink from the car window.
Martinez also reports seeing several fights break out while she waited for her mother, and she started drinking at the age of 14. When her mother died of chronic liver damage, Martinez pulled herself together and got sober.
On top of the drinking, Whiteclay is the scene of at least four murders that remain unsolved due to a lack of police presence. Now that the sale of liquor is banished the town is silent, giving residents like Martinez a sense of pride.
The tragic and preventable loss of 6-year-old Christina Roubideaux will stay with the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation for years to come.