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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
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Walk Down the Line

Residents of Acoma and Laguna pueblos joined together for a walk and run to raise awareness about the dangers of high content beer and malt liquor sold just off the two pueblos' reservations.

About 100 people, along with 25 volunteers, participated in the "Walk Down the Line" on Oct. 18. The nine-mile walk/run began outside a bar off the Acoma reservation and passed three establishments that sell high alcohol content beer and malt liquor to the predominantly Native clientele.

"We really cannot dictate the lives of people, but we can educate people on right from wrong, and educate people about some of those things that have a negative or an adverse effect on our lives," Pueblo of Laguna Gov. Roland Johnson told the runners and walkers after they completed the walk.

Johnson said he was happy with the community members who turned out for the event and with the organizers' efforts to raise awareness of the social issues that exist at Laguna Pueblo.

Darlene Waseta, Pueblo of Laguna's Free To Grow director, organized the event after visiting the Na'nizhoozhi Center Inc. in Gallup, N.M. The group organized a similar walk from Gallup to the state capital in Santa Fe to call attention to the negative impact of high alcohol content beer on Native communities.

"Young people buy it because it is cheap," said Waseta. The high alcohol content beverages can be purchased for less than $3 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans.

High alcohol content beers contain between 5.5 percent to 8.5 percent alcohol per 12 ounces compared to regular beer, which contain between 3.5 percent to 5 percent alcohol per 12 ounces.

Beverly DeSoto, an employee at Villa DeCubero Trading Post, said regular beer outsells both hard liquor and malt liquors combined. "We could remove them, but they're (Indians) just going to go somewhere else to buy them," she said.

But Waseta countered that if regular beer outsells malt liquors, then businesses shouldn't have a problem removing the stronger beverages from their shelves. She noted that two area businesses already have done so in response to her efforts.

Dancing Eagle Supermarket recently agreed to remove malt liquors after a meeting with Waseta and Kristina Kie, prevention specialist with the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Southwest Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies. (Kie is the wife of this reporter.)

Waseta said she named the event "Walk Down the Line" in response to an old local saying, "Going up the line," which locals interpret to mean "to go to the bar and drink."

"Up the line" refers to the four package liquor and drinking establishments located within four miles of each other and that sell to the predominantly Native population. A fifth establishment shut down several years ago after repeated violations and complaints of selling to minors. 

(This story was originally published on Reznet, the online newspaper by Native American college students and reprinted with permission from Reznet,


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.