Nebraska village braces itself for repeat of Indian protest


WHITECLAY, Neb. {AP} The possibility of violence during the Fourth of July weekend hangs over this town, where Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation went on a rampage a week ago during a protest over alleged treaty violations, two unsolved murders and the sale of alcohol to Indians.

Indian activists planned another protest today, saying they would march two miles from the reservation in South Dakota over the state line into this village of 22 residents. They planned to set up tepees and occupy Whiteclay until state officials addressed their concerns.

Last Saturday, about 350 Indians walked the same route before setting fires, looting a Whiteclay grocery store and tearing down a “Welcome to Nebraska” sign at the border.

Tribal leaders said they do not want today’s march to turn ugly because it could scare President Clinton away from his visit to the reservation on Tuesday. Clinton plans to discuss economic development in Indian communities and tour tornado-damaged parts of Oglala, S.D.

Still, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns said state troopers will be on hand. He said he considered calling in the National Guard to monitor the march, but ruled it out.

Tim Hotz, owner of the Jack and Jill grocery store in Whiteclay, said that businesses in town would be closed today because of the protest. The Fourth of July holiday is usually one of the busiest weekends of the Year.

American Indian Movement leaders and members of the Oglala Sioux tribe allege the U.S. government has violated an 1868 treaty that reserved parts of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska for the Sioux.

Tribe members are also upset that a few stores in Whiteclay sell more than $3 million worth of beer each year, mostly to Indians with drinking problems. The rate of alcoholism is high among Indians, and alcohol is banned on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“If them bars weren’t there, a lot of our people, including my cousin and younger brother, would be alive today,” said Tom Poor Bear, who organized last weekend’s rally.

Also, tribe members say local police have not done enough to investigate the deaths of Wilson Black Elk Jr., 40, and Ronald Hard Heart, 39, whose bodies were found June 8 in a culvert near the Nebraska line.

Poor Bear is Black Elk’s older half-brother and Hard Heart’s cousin.

Johanns said the state could not offer much help with the investigation because the bodies were found in South Dakota. Federal and tribal police have announced a $15,000 reward for information on the slayings.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.