Tuesday, June 18, 2013

White Clay, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and My Synopsis

picture credited to Native News Networks
Late last night, a friend posted this video on her Facebook wall accompanied only with, "I am appalled." With that in mind I braced myself, but after watching I was more curious than appalled. The video is not high quality (which is understandable given the circumstance it was filmed.) I couldn't make out most of the words, or what was even going on, other than a confrontation between two men. I had no sense of the context for the footage beyond the title.

So I did some research into articles and learned about the incident...

To begin, the Louisiana Purchase brought settlers over into the midwest and into Sioux tribes' territory. The land the tribes controlled went from spanning from the Minnesota River to the head of Yellowstone River and as far down as the upper drainage of the Republican river to just six tribal reservations in what is now southwest South Dakota (1, Hughes.) It encompasses an area of roughly 3,500 square miles, making it the eighth-largest reservation in the United States--larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combine--yet is one of the poorest counties in the country ("History," Oglala Lakota Nation.)

Originally, the 1889 Indian Appropriations Act that put the Sioux people onto the aforementioned reservation--called Pine Ridge--included a 50 square mile extension into Nebraska that could be removed from the reservation if the reservation no longer needed it (2, Hughes.) In 1904, President Roosevelt used the executive power to grant this extension to the State of Nebraska which is present day Whiteclay ("History," Oglala Lakota Nation.)

Since the reservations creation alcohol has been illegal to sell, consume, or possess save a brief experiment in the 1970s (About Whiteclay, Nebraska.) Despite these laws, Pine Ridge has one of the highest rates of alcoholism in the entire United States. Perhaps not coincidentally, the small 50 square mile area called Whiteclay that borders the reservation has four liquor stores (8, Hughes.) Also worth noting is that Whiteclay has roughly a dozen residents yet sold the equivalent of nearly 3.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer in 2012 (Associated Press-1.)

So far, Nebraska legislation has been slow if not unresponsive to the growing problems from Whiteclay and the Oglala Sioux Tribe (8, Hughes.) Yet activism, protest, and the search for a solution from inside and outside the reservation continues.

And this brings us to current events.

May 24 this year, State Patrol troopers arrested Timothy R. McKenzie Jr.--a member of Deep Green Resistance--while he was delivering a complaint letter to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission in Lincoln (Associated Press-1.) Authorities arrested McKenzie with the charges of terroristic threats, counts of assault, criminal mischief, and shoplifting. The two acts of vandalism amounted to slashing tires, destroying beer bottles, and people threatening with knives the workers who were transporting the beer. Each incident is reported to having between 5 to 10 people involved (Associated Press-1) (Duggan-1.)

The complaint letter alleged "the owner of one of the stores provided baseball bats to men who were drinking outside the store and urged them to assault two women who had come into town from the protest camp [inside the reservation.] Other protesters protected the women, and no one was hurt" (Duggan-2.) The Director of Commission Hobert Rupe said that the letter and allegations would be forward to the state patrol for further investigation (Duggan-2.)

Meanwhile, the filmmaker behind "The Battle for Whiteclay" Mark Vasina said that the protesters are receiving public support from church groups, tribe members, and the tribal president Bryan Brewer. Vasina also remarked that the organizers behind the protests are aiming for peaceful protests and that McKenzie has denied the charges (Associated Press-1.) Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, remarked on McKenzie's arrest, "All the State Patrol did, and all the Liquor Control Commission did today was throw grease on the fire. Whiteclay is a tinderbox." (Associated Press-1.)

McKenzie appears to not be the only person with a warrant for arrest. Deputy Sheridan County Attorney Jamian Simmons said that warrants have been issued for at least one other person and that investigation into the vandalism case is continuing (Duggan-2.) However, investigators "won't be able to request extradition if the suspects are on the reservations" (Duggan-1.)

Last Friday, Brewer told his tribe's council that he planned to protest in Whiteclay on Monday morning (Abourezk-1.)

Yesterday morning on Monday June 17th, Sheridan County Sheriff's office arrested President Bryan Brewer at the protest in Whiteclay. That what is seen in the video my friend posted on Facebook. From the video, it difficult to discern most of the dialogue between Brewer and the Nebraska lawman due to the commotion of the crowd.

News sites report that President Brewer had an outstanding warrant for writing a bad check issued in March 2012 worth less than $200 to a veterinary clinic. After taken to Rushville, President Brewer paid the amount he owed, the fine, and was released. Simmons says the charges will be dismissed (Associated Press-2.)

Into the realm of speculation: Native News Network's editor-in-chief Levi Rickert comments , "President Brewer was threatened with arrest when he led some 100 tribal members in a protest at [Whiteclay]" (Rickert.) This claim cannot be corroborated as of yet. With a similar interpretation, Oglala activist Olowan Martinez said, "They probably assume that if they take out our leadership that we'll leave. We're not leaving until Anheuser-Busch decides to stay out of Whiteclay" (Abourezk-2.)

My point of view is: Whether or not the protesters alleged of vandalism and assault are wrongfully accused, the tone of Duggan's articles as well as the sheriffs' in the video seem to reveal a concern that groups protesting Whiteclay are violent--if not going so far as to believe them terrorists. This could lead to more and more police enforcement in Whiteclay that has not been previously seen. The protesters in the video and on the Native News Network seem to be feeling this same hostility, and if so may try to match the same level of aggression by Nebraska police force.

I am hoping that I am wrong in this assumption. With President Brewer's arrest less than 24 hours ago, news cites already following the protest in Whiteclay should have more information in the upcoming days. Whether that be more eyewitness testimony from protesters who witnessed the arrest, from Nebraska law officials, or even from President Brewer himself.

This, though, an encapsulating statement from Duggan's first cited article that sums up my feelings towards the recent events:
"[Vic Clarke] formerly owned the store that he now manages, which sustained $80,000 in damage and losses after it was looted during a 1999 march. The march was prompted by the unsolved murders of two Native American men last seen in Whiteclay."
So, reader, what thoughts do you have about these recent events in Whiteclay, NE?

Works Cited
Abourezk, Kevin. "Oglala Sioux President Arrested in Whiteclay." JournalStar.com. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/oglala-sioux-president-arrested-in-whiteclay/article_33565f23-e69e-5fd1-941f-162d85a3ff00.html>.
Abourezk, Kevin. "Tribe Votes to Allow Members to Decide Whether to Legalize Alcohol." JournalStar.com. N.p., 12 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/tribe-votes-to-allow-members-to-decide-whether-to-legalize/article_8f7f15b4-8d15-5d0a-9051-4eba185118c0.html>.
"The Battle For Whiteclay » About Whiteclay, Nebraska." The Battle For Whiteclay RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://battleforwhiteclay.org/?page_id=140>.
Duggan, Joe. "Protesters File Complaint over Beer Sales to Native Americans in Whiteclay." Omaha.com. N.p., 25 May 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.omaha.com/article/20130524/NEWS/705259975/1707>.
Duggan, Joe. "Whiteclay on Edge as Protesters Target Beer Sales." Omaha.com. N.p., 21 May 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.omaha.com/article/20130521/NEWS/705219914/1685>.
"History of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation." Oglala Lakota Nation. Oglala Lakota Nation, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.oglalalakotanation.org/oln/History.html>.
Hughes, James N., III. "Pine Ridge, Whiteclay and Indian Liquor Law." (n.d.): n. pag. University of Nebraska College of Law, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://documents.jdsupra.com/4c1267de-b226-4e76-bd8a-4a2548169500.pdf>.
"President of Oglala Sioux Tribe on Pine Ridge Reservation Arrested during Protest in Nebraska." Daily Journal. Ed. Associated Press. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/0d795ad7d6fe416f8cb95eea75c80197/NE--Tribal-President-Arrest/>.
Rickert, Levi. "Oglala Sioux Tribe President Arrested in White Clay." Native News Network. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.nativenewsnetwork.com/oglala-sioux-tribe-president-arrested-in-white-clay.html>.
"Whiteclay Activist Arrested While Filing Complaint." Rapid City Journal. Ed. Associated Press. N.p., 24 May 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/whiteclay-activist-arrested-while-filing-complaint/article_33a644c4-568e-58e8-ae52-f1b7213bfbd0.html>.

Note: I found both Hughe's paper as well as the Oglala Lakota Nation History to be especially helpful when framing the context of the more recent events.

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