History of the Čaŋlí Coalition
In 2009, the South Dakota legislature expanded its smoke-free policy to include bars, restaurants, and casinos. However, the law’s passage didn’t affect the Cheyenne River Reservation or the eight other tribes in the state because of tribal sovereignty. At the time, the adult smoking rate among the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) members was 51% which was higher than the U.S. smoking rate in 1964 when the surgeon general first declared that smoking was harmful (Legacy, 2014; U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1964).
That’s when Missouri Breaks gathered a group of five key stakeholders who wanted smoke-free indoor air and founded the Čaŋlí Coalition in Eagle Butte, SD. Čaŋlí (pronounced CHUN-lee) is the Lakota word for commercial tobacco, distinctly different from traditional plants, such as čaŋšášá (pronounced chan-shah-shah) used by Lakota people in tribal ceremonial practices.
The work to pass a smoke-free indoor air ordinance was a multi-generational grassroots effort by local activists: youth, concerned adults, healthcare professionals, educators and elders who came together to shape the Coalition, and create strategies to convince the CRST Council to pass legislation. Coalition members ceaselessly worked and continue to work to educate community members of all ages on the dangers of commercial tobacco. At the same time, the Coalition worked with public health law advisors to draft a comprehensive policy package to present to the Tribal Council.
The Čaŋlí Coalition’s advocacy paid off. In April 2015, the Cheyenne River Tribal Council passed the Smoke-Free Indoor Air Act-Ordinance 77, prohibiting smoking and the use of e-cigarettes in all indoor public buildings and 50 feet from entrances to public buildings. Since then, the National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution advocating for comprehensive tobacco policies (NCAI, 2016). To date, there are only three other tribes in the U.S. that have passed comprehensive smoke-free air policies.
Following the Čaŋlí Coalition’s successful passage, implementation and enforcement of the CRST Smoke Free Indoor Air Ordinance 77, many other tribes have asked for support to replicate the Čaŋlí Coalition’s model to take on tobacco prevention and control strategies.