What is the greatest vice of the Souix? The white man’s alcoholism, or black thug culture? Despite its geographical isolation, the Pine Ridge Indian reservation is effected by black thug culture due to Hollywood and the music industry.
The giant Pine Ridge Indian reservation has a bad reputation as it is for alcoholism. However, it is now experiencing the rapid explosion of urban thug culture. Souix teens listen to ganster rap music and have formed their own gangs modeled after black and Latino drug gangs. The majority of all young males on the reservation are members of gangs.
Richard Wilson has been a pallbearer for at least five of his “homeboys” in the North Side Tre Tre Gangster Crips, a Sioux imitation of a notorious Denver gang.
One 15-year-old member was mauled by rivals. A 17-year-old shot himself; another, on a cocaine binge and firing wildly, was shot by the police. One died in a drunken car wreck, and another, a founder of the gang named Gaylord, was stabbed to death at 27.
“We all got drunk after Gaylord’s burial, and I started rapping,” said Mr. Wilson, who, at 24, is practically a gang elder. “But I teared up and couldn’t finish.”
Mr. Wilson is one of 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved with at least 39 gangs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The gangs are being blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear that is altering the texture of life here and in other parts of American Indian territory.
“We’re trying to give an identity back to our youth,” said Melvyn Young Bear, the tribe’s appointed cultural liaison. “They’re into the subculture of African-Americans and Latinos. But they are Lakota, and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Mr. Young Bear, 42, is charged with promoting Lakota rituals, including drumming, chanting and sun dances. He noted that some Head Start programs were now conducted entirely in Lakota.
Michael Little Boy Jr., 30, of the village of Evergreen, said he had initially been tempted by gang life, but with rituals and purifying sweat lodges, “I was able to turn myself around.” He is emerging as a tribal spiritual leader, working with youth groups to promote native traditions.
Mr. Grant said a survey of young men in South Dakota reservations found that the approach might be helping.
Mr. Wilson, the 24-year-old gang member, said he regretted not learning the Sioux language when he was young and now wondered about his own future.