Film opens eyes about Whiteclay

Published Thursday November 19, 2009

Fremonter Eric Castillo had limited knowledge about the events in Whiteclay before Wednesday night.

After attending a screening of the movie “The Battle for Whiteclay” at Fremont High School, Castillo came away with much more insight.

“I learned a great deal more on both sides,” Castillo said. “Watching that movie, the activist in me was all for the tribe, but I kind of went back and forth going, ‘You know these people have a legal right to have a business and make their money.’ I don’t think I’m any clearer now as far as an answer or resolution to it. It opened my eyes quite a bit to the concerns up there and the difficulties of trying to resolve this.”

“The Battle for Whiteclay” is a documentary produced and directed by Colon native Mark Vasina. It focuses on Whiteclay, a town of 14 people in northern Nebraska that has four off-sale beer stores that cater primarily to people who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where alcohol is prohibited.

It is estimated that approximately 11,000 cans of beer per day are sold to people from the reservation.

Castillo brought his 11-year-old son, Cutty, with him to the screening.

“My son’s at the age now where he can start understanding some of this stuff going on,” Castillo said. “It’s just right here in Nebraska, too. Right in our back yard.”

The film was shown as part of Midland Lutheran College’s “Imagining the Other” series and was followed by a question-and-answer session with Vasina.

Midland English professor Henry Krusiewicz said the film was a natural fit for the community-focused events series.

“As a liberal arts college, we want to serve not only our students, but the community intellectually, morally, socially,” Krusiewicz said. “A film like this fulfills all of those aspects of the mission of the college.”

Midland sophomore Nikea Grove said she had limited knowledge of the events in Whiteclay because her grandfather was a member of the Nebraska State Patrol in the late 1970s.

“I’d heard vaguely, so I was interested,” Grove said.

Grove admitted many of her assumptions about the issue were based on stereotypes such as the “drunken Indian.”

“Other than that, I knew nothing, so coming out of this I see that it’s a problem,” she said.

And that was one of the main reasons for bringing Vasina back to Fremont, MLC assistant director of student involvement Jamie Meints said.

Meints believes it is important to bring events like the one Wednesday night to Fremont to expose students and the community to things they normally do not see or hear about.

Krusiewicz agreed.

“It forces all of us to imagine a completely different life that we were unaware of, and it’s in our own back yard,” he said.


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