Whiteclay deterioration focus of march, rally

Published March 03, 2003

Just south of the border Nebraska shares with South Dakota, Whiteclay sits.

A mere 200 feet from the Pine Ridge Reservation, a reservation that allows no consumption of alcoholic beverages, three liquor stores sell 11,000 cans of beer daily. Whiteclay has just 22 residents.

And Saturday, activists had one question on their minds.

What should be done about Whiteclay?

This question was the focus of a panel, rally, march and movie Saturday.

The panel, held in The Crib of the Nebraska Union, was made up of Col. Tom Nesbitt of the Nebraska State Patrol; Vernon Bellecourt of the American Indian Movement; Frank LaMere of Earth, Energy and Environment; and Byron Peterson, a state board member of Nebraskans for Peace.

These four men explained their views and answered audience questions.

Nesbitt, who has been working on the Whiteclay issue since his appointment as head of the Nebraska State Patrol in 1999, cited the efforts of the Nebraska State Patrol in past years.

State troopers have spent more than 900 hours patrolling in Whiteclay in one year alone, Nesbitt said.

The Nebraska State Patrol has devoted more enforcement in Whiteclay than in any other community of comparable size, he said.

“When compared to available resources, NSP has spent extraordinary time enforcing liquor (laws),” Nesbitt said.

He added that in one year alone, state troopers issued more than 1,800 tickets and warnings to people consuming alcohol, and six citations to liquor license holders.

Through all of this, Nesbitt stressed participation by all parties.

“No level of determination will resolve this issue, unless efforts are made by all involved,” Nesbitt said.

LaMere, a member of the Winnebago tribe, has also tried to help, though he has focused his efforts north of the border.

LaMere remembered an instance in which he and relative Fred LaMere drove through Whiteclay at 5 a.m. and saw a number of drunken American Indians on the streets and curbs of Whiteclay, some publicly urinating.

After seeing this, Frank LaMere told Fred LaMere something should be done to help those people.

“He told me that nothing would get done unless I would do it myself,” Frank LaMere said.

It was then that Frank LaMere took up the charge of helping the American Indians in the Pine Ridge area.

Peterson has also noticed the excessive drinking and public intoxication in Whiteclay, the vast majority of which is done by American Indians.

Peterson said he was a profound believer in equal protection under the law, but didn’t know if that was the case in Whiteclay.

Peterson said he felt as though there wasn’t enough adequate enforcement of liquor laws.

After all his dealing with the American Indians at Whiteclay, Peterson said he resolved never to drink any alcohol manufactured in Nebraska.

“I have profound disrespect for the liquor commission,” Peterson said.

Though invited, no representatives of the Liquor Commission were on hand for response.

Bellecourt, a member of the White Earth Ojibwa tribe in northern Minnesota, said something needed to be done about the “cancer that sits one and a half miles south of this line called the Nebraska-South Dakota border.”

Beyond this, Bellecourt spoke about the history of his organization.

“AIM was borne out of the dark violence of police brutality,” Bellecourt said. “(It) succeeds because they have beliefs.”

Bellecourt also stated that long before anthrax, the American Indians were victims of chemical warfare, the kind that Bellecourt says comes out of bottles of whiskey and barrels of rum.

Bellecourt was perplexed by the past actions of those who had taken things away from the American Indians.

“Why do they take with the gun what they could have with love?” Bellecourt said, quoting Black Hawk, a Sauk chief who lived during the 1800s.

Junior anthropology major Brad Kindler attended the rally, and said the Year of Atonement, which started Saturday, spoke for itself.

“We must have reconciliation. We as citizens of Nebraska recognize the indecency of Whiteclay,” Kindler said. “And as responsible citizens of Nebraska, we are bringing it to the attention of lawmakers.”

Robert Hitchcock, professor of anthropology and geography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, moderated the event, and said he hoped to see the issue of alcohol establishments addressed, along with resolutions to provide more law enforcement and to provide health and sanitary facilities.

“They need to refocus what they’re doing in Whiteclay,” Hitchcock said.

The panel discussion was followed by a rally in front of the Nebraska Union where LaMere said a few words.

“We’re going to march to the governor’s mansion, to the very home of the person who can help make a difference,” LaMere said.

A group of around 60 people rallied at the mansion, including Lincoln Mayor Don Wesley, who attended the forum and marched, in suit and tie, alongside LaMere and Bellecourt.

After the march, there was a 7 p.m. showing of the films “SKINS,” which depicts an American Indian police officer from the Pine Ridge Reservation and his alcoholic brother.


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