Troubles from Whiteclay prompt call for protest

Published Tuesday March 3, 2009
BY MARTHA STODDARD
OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — Activists announced a special commemoration this year of the two men whose unsolved slayings sparked a decade of efforts to address alcohol sales in the village of Whiteclay, Neb.

Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe, told participants at a wind-whipped rally Monday at the State Capitol that a march is planned in June from Pine Ridge, S.D., to Whiteclay.

The march is to call attention to the deaths of Wilson Black Elk Jr. and his cousin Ronald Hard Heart, who were found in a roadside ditch between Whiteclay and Pine Ridge on June 8, 1999. The men had been beaten and mutilated.

LaMere said the commemoration also would focus on others who have died before and since in the streets and alleys of the notorious town.

“Ten years is too much,” he said. “It’s hard to talk about ‘The Good Life’ with Whiteclay flourishing in our backyard.”

Whiteclay, an unincorporated village, has four liquor stores that sell more than 4 million cans of beer a year. Almost all sales are to residents of the adjacent Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol is banned.

The slayings of Black Elk and Hard Heart galvanized efforts to shut down those stores. There have been several protest marches, proposals and probes, including a federal civil rights investigation.

Little has changed in the town since 1999.

But LaMere urged his listeners to continue their efforts, and he called on state officials, from the Legislature to the Liquor Control Commission, to take action.

A new wave of activism appears to be starting, with last year’s release of the documentary “The Battle for Whiteclay,” the recent posting of a YouTube video and interest from high school and college students.

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