‘”This cop is holding a taser to the neck of a Lakota man blocking the passage of a beer truck in White Clay, Nebraska. Despite police violence, the action was a success - two Budweiser trucks never delivered their cargo.
A cop holds a taser to the neck of a Lakota man who was attempting to block two Budweiser trucks from entering White Clay, Nebraska.
Many of the people of the Pine Ridge reservation have been focusing a lot lately on shutting down the town of White Clay, Nebraska, just off the reservation. Existing only to sell beer and liquor, largely to people suffering from alcoholism, White Clay profits from addiction and death. Alcoholism causes rampant social problems on Pine Ridge and elsewhere, such as abuse of children and deaths from drunk driving.
People gathered at the Zero Tolerance Camp at the edge of the reservation, bordering White Clay. Here, people have been camping out to maintain a continued presence, and holding weekly blockades to stop trucks from bringing in alcohol. On Monday, people joined together to stop the beer trucks from delivering.
Things escalated quickly after the arrival of President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Bryan V. Brewer, Sr. As the beer trucks arrived, he marched in the center of the crowd as it moved down the street into White Clay. Police approached him and, after a brief interaction, arrested him with no explanation of what he was being charged with. The crowd surrounded the cop car for several minutes before allowing it to drive away as Brewer motioned for them to step aside.
As people marched to block the beer trucks, police held tasers to people’s hearts and necks, violently pulled people’s hair, wrestled people to the ground, and forcefully pushed people. Crowds gathered around, screaming to let them go. We saw how, in White Clay, brutality was the first resort of the police although the Lakota people had no recourse other than direct action to stop White Clay from plaguing their people. But people held their ground, and the two Budweiser trucks that had come into White Clay never made their deliveries that day. Together, we all let out a massive cheer when the trucks finally drove away.
Lakota activists pepper-sprayed in protest against predatory liquor stores August 27, 2012
Women of the Oglala Lakota nation along with activists from Deep Green Resistance, AIM Grassroots, Native Youth Movement, Un-Occupy Albuquerque, Occupy Lincoln, and Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center took part in a march from Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge into White Clay to protest against the predatory liquor industry present there.
White Clay has a population of 14, yet 4 liquor stores in the town sell 12,500 cans of beer each day. The stores have been documented repeatedly selling to bootleggers, intoxicated people, minors, and trading beer for sexual favors.
“For over 100 years the women of the Oglala Lakota nation have been dealing with an attack on the mind body and spirit of their relatives”, says Olowan Martinez who is a main organizer of the event and resident of Pine Ridge. “The Oglala have been silenced through chemical warfare waged by the corporations who are out to exploit and make a profit off of the suffering and misery of our people. The time has come to end this suffering by any means necessary.”
Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist and resident of Pine Ridge who spoke at the event proclaimed, “A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian. We have to send a message to Nebraska and its citizens that we are not going to tolerate business as usual. This is the Women’s Day of Peace but that peace will soon be over”.
After the march and speeches members of Deep Green Resistance locked down and blockaded the road into White Clay.
Less than a half hour after the lockdown began a police officer rolled down their window and indiscriminately pepper sprayed into a crowd. Up to 12 people were pepper sprayed including the 10 year old son of a Lakota woman who helped organize the march. Also, an elder Lakota woman, Helen Red Feather, reported having her leg hit by a police car in motion. Medics with the protest treated pepper spray injuries.
At 7:39, the five activists who participated in the lock down were hauled off in a horse trailer to the Sheridan County jail in Rushville. They have since been released on their own recognizance.
Today, justice is far from complete, since White Clay continues to enable and enact the destruction of the Oglala Lakota and the people of Pine Ridge. The continued subjugation of the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation will not end as long as the liquor stores in White Clay continue to operate.
Chants of “As long as it takes!” began by those locked down and the people standing with them in the crowd at the beginning of the lockdown. The struggle continues.
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Prohibition in Pine Ridge: Lakota women lead fight against ‘liquid genocide’ & predatory liquor stores August 13, 2013
There’s a steady flow of traffic outside the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, heading back and forth over the state-line, in and out of Nebraska. At the entrance, just over the border, sits an encampment set up off to the side of the road, with children running about playing. A large tipi stands tall next to a small cook shack and a shaded area for visitors.
“Their children prosper while our children suffer,” reads one large sign in front of the cook shack. “A sober Lakota is a dangerous Lakota,” reads another.
Inside the camp is a long table covered in sewing material — plates holding thousands of various colored beads and containers filled with threads, sinew, pieces of leather and different-sized hand tools. Since April 30, this beading circle has doubled as a makeshift stronghold, dubbed Camp Zero Tolerance. The group of Lakota woman who reside here have become the main opposition to the neighboring town of Whiteclay and its continuous sale of alcohol.
“Most of us women go out and sell our bead work to a make a living,” explained Misty, one of the top opponents of Whiteclay. “But since we haven’t been able to leave, we make the bead work here and send it out to be sold.”
The small, un-incorporated town sits on the outskirts of the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Despite a population of only 14 people, it has four different liquor stores that sell about 12,500 cans of beer per day or 4.9 million cans per year.
“Whiteclay, we call it a genocidal hole,” said Olowan Martinez, a strong, vocal advocate of closing down the town. “We heard the term ‘liquid genocide’ and that’s exactly what Whiteclay is: liquid genocide. We got the name ‘zero tolerance’ from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Ordinance 43-12, which states that it is illegal to have alcohol here on the homeland. There’s zero tolerance against alcohol in our territory. For us, alcohol is the enemy.”
The troubled history with Whiteclay runs far back. In 1882, president Chester A. Arthur created a 50-square mile buffer zone, known as the Whiteclay Extension, to protect the reservation from the threat of whiskey peddlers. By 1890, Congress incorporated this area into the boundaries of the reservation “until such time as its protective function is no longer needed.” But in 1904 Theodore Roosevelt removed all but one mile of the Whiteclay Extension, opening up the land to settlers and alcohol. Since then, the largest reservation east of the Rockies has been subjected to the lethal effects of emotional and physical violence brought on by the sale of liquor just 300 feet from its border.
“As a Lakota winyan [woman] who was born and raised right here in Oglala territory, I know deep within myself that alcohol is the root of every evil we have here,” said Martinez. “We have so many relatives who say, ‘Quit blaming Whiteclay, quit blaming those bar owners,’ but the monsters coming out of Whiteclay need to be addressed.”
Tears swell up in her eyes as she relates the story of a friend — a young woman struggling with alcohol addiction, who was raped in Whiteclay. It was so severe that she was taken to an intensive care unit at the regional hospital in Rapid City. Upon her release five days later, she immediately hitchhiked back to drink in Whiteclay. Disturbingly frequent stories such as this are what motivated the women to take this drastic stand to shut Whiteclay down.
“In our history, alcohol has never been used for us. It’s only been used against us,” Martinez explained. “There are even stories about some of the treaties being conducted under the influence… [It’s] guaranteed that everyone in Oglala territory has lost someone due to alcohol.”
Within the past decade numerous rallies and protests have been staged against this small town. Residents of Pine Ridge and their supporters have continually addressed the illegal business practices such as selling alcohol to minors and intoxicated persons, or of accepting sex for payment. However, the controversy has never been settled. Now, with public knowledge spreading about the stories of abuse attributed to the town, many more Nebraskans have come out to offer their support for the women.
As part of a new generation in the movement to shut down Whiteclay, these women, along with other supporters and allies, have organized a series of direct actions aimed at preventing alcohol sales in Whiteclay. What began as a Women’s Day of Peace last August, grew into group marches on the town, staged road blockades preventing traffic in and out of Whiteclay, DUI checkpoints, and direct actions preventing the alcohol truck deliveries. The resistance that has formed from Camp Zero Tolerance continues to grow — gaining media attention throughout the state.
“It feels good to take action against something that helped kill my mother, something that helped damage and chase away my spirit as a young person,” said Martinez. “We sent clear messages to the distributor: ‘Quit sending your poison here.’ But they ignored us the first time, so we had to do it again. These were planned direct actions.”
Tribal President Bryan Brewer was even arrested on the front line during one of the roadblocks on June 17. At a recent Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council meeting, the president spoke about his involvement, saying, “I was meeting with our tribal council … and right now they think what I’m doing in Whiteclay is bad. They asked me to explain to the people why I’m doing this. So I told the council, ‘It’s very simple. It’s against the law.’ I took an oath to uphold our constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and alcohol is illegal on our reservation. And we all know what it’s doing to our people.”
Last month, a scheduled meeting between President Brewer and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman lasted only five minutes. Brewer walked out after being disrespectfully reprimanded by the governor, who was angered by the publicity of what he expected to be a secret meeting. He was also upset at Brewer for mentioning $164,000 in campaign funds that the governor received between 2005-2012 from the same liquor interests that supply Whiteclay.
“I was told by the governor that ‘Whiteclay is not my problem, it’s yours,’” Brewer told reporters after the meeting.
The governor’s clear disrespect of the tribal president’s office appears to leave very little room for healthy diplomatic resolution at the Nebraska state level.
On July 10, an alcohol distributor from Scottsbluff, Neb., pulled out of its deliveries from Whiteclay, stating that they would only deliver as far as Rushville, a town 20 miles away. It was a short-lived victory for Camp Zero Tolerance, as bar owners began hauling their own shipments back to Whiteclay, crossing the line between retailer and distributor in order to maintain their profits and keep sales flowing.
In an attempt to resolve the issue, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is holding a referendum vote on August 13 to determine whether or not to legalize alcohol on the reservation, spawning very split and heated debates.