Native activists protesting “bad man” clause violation Friday in Whiteclay

Published Thursday January 14, 2010

A small group of Native American activists will march into Whiteclay, Neb., at 1 p.m. today to present a lawsuit they plan to file accusing four Whiteclay beer sellers and a Christian ministry of violating the “bad man” clause of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Duane Martin Sr. of the Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement and the Black Hills Sioux Treaty Council say they will file a complaint in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Neb., next week naming four Whiteclay beer sellers: Mike’s Pioneer Liquor, State Line Inn, Arrow Head Inn and Jumping Eagle Inn, and the Christian nonprofit 555 Whiteclay, which operates a soup kitchen and other ministries in Whiteclay.

Whiteclay is just outside the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited, and 2 miles south of the town of Pine Ridge.

Beer sales in Whiteclay contribute to alcoholism and related problems that are rampant on the reservation, said Martin.

The proposed lawsuit, which Martin promises to file next week in Lincoln, asks the federal government to stop those establishments from doing business under Article 1 of the 1868 treaty between the Sioux nation and the U.S. government. The five entities are guilty of bringing “sickness and death to the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation.” It also calls on the state of Nebraska to not allow alcohol sales within a “buffer zone” between the two states.

The “bad man” legal argument was successfully used by Lavetta Elk, another Oglala Sioux, in a lawsuit alleging that a U.S. Army recruiter had violated the “bad man” clause when he sexually molested her while transporting her to a military recruiting appointment. Elk recently won a $650,000 settlement that left intact a federal judge’s ruling that said the treaty language requires the government to reimburse Sioux tribe members who are injured by “any wrong” done by “bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States.”

Martin plans to hold a prayer service at 1 p.m. on the state line, followed by a short walk into Whiteclay, where he will present his complaint at each of the five establishments. He said his 90-year-old, wheelchair-bound mother, Cecelia Martin, will join the protest.

Messages left with the Whiteclay businesses were not returned by deadline.

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