Camp Justice (Part III of “Alcohol: A tool of oppression against Native Americans”)

Published October 23, 2002
HOCAK WORAK: Newsletter of the Ho-Chunk Nation

On July 4, 1999, some members of the Oglala Lakota Nation declared independence with the development of Camp Justice. Tom Poor Bear organized and set up the beginnings of the camp, and invited others to join him there. Tipis were erected, and the camp situated on both sides of the “border” between the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and the State of Nebraska. Just below Camp Justice, in a culvert a memorial stands for Ron Hard Heart and Wilson Black Elk Jr. At Camp Justice, flying next to a flag from the Swiss people, and the POW / MIA flag, flies an upside down American flag symbolizing distress. Tom Poor Bear stated that they would occupy the camp until those involved in the murders of Ron and Wilson are brought to justice. Camp Justice, also has taken on a symbol of the justice that all Native people seek in the endless atrocities against them.

Frank LaMere (Winnebago), from South Sioux City, Iowa, has been involved with Camp Justice from the beginning. Frank also has played a vital role in the fight against alcohol since 1997 in having the voice of the Lakota people heard. He has delt with both local, and state governments and law enforcement in South Dakota and Nebraska, seeking proper investigation of liquor law violations in White Clay, and enforcement of Nebraska’s Liquor laws. Frank stated, “Camp Justice is a means for people to come together to take their frustrations and the feelings they have about the illegal sale of alcohol.” The State of Nebraska has laws against public intoxication, open containers of alcohol on a street, and sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons. These laws are broken on a daily basis in White Clay. Frank continued to say, “I think Camp Justice, represents an opportunity to take those frustrations and try to something positive with them. Camp Justice is about unity of purpose, Oglala and Natives people from many places coming together and saying that the situation here cannot go on – it must change. Camp Justice also represents a chance for all of us as Native people to tell the state of Nebraska and the world that this is enough, that we will not let you continue to kill us, we will not let you to orphan our children and we will not let you to negatively affect and tear our families apart by providing us with alcohol, in doing so illegally. Camp Justice is simply about hope, unity, and keeping the resolve that we have within us alive, that things have got to change, we are not going away and we are going to stay here until things do change.” Frank feels that the murders of Ron and Wilson were a catalyst for us to say that enough is enough, and they made a sacrifice for all Indian people so that they would come together and say that were are not going to allow this to happen anymore!”

Frank, also stated that he believes that the non-indians had originally used alcohol as a way to keep Native Americans under control. In speaking with several people on Pine Ridge a common belief was that if Native Americans were given the social burden of alcohol, Native people would be less apt to fight the non-indians but instead turn the fighting inward towards themselves.

Camp Justice will always symbolize the efforts of Native people coming together to seek justice for the devastation that alcohol and poverty has brought. And some day hopefully the Camp will no longer be needed, symbolizing the end of the devastation and the beginning of justice not only for the relatives of Ron Hardheart and Wilson Black Elk Jr. and the Oglala, but to all Native people of this great land that has been named the United States of America.

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