137 years ago the Lakota nation banded with their allies, the Northern Cheyenne and the Northern Arapaho to fight their greatest enemy and they won. Up until that time the United States really had no strategy in war. It was a straight on, go for it battle, ride to your death type of war. General Custer and the 7th Cavalry never realized what an ambush was until it was too late. Many of the strategies and ambush tactics used by the Indians that day in battle are still used and have been used by many other nations and countries in wartime to this day. America was defeated, their flag and 7th Cavalry pennant was taken, yet they will never admit it.
Our people have suffered many hard times after that day of victory, we know why, but we will never forget what our ancestors did for us that day. As much as the American education we received wanted us to forget that day, as much as they taught us it was a massacre, yet no women and children were killed like later in the Wounded Knee Massacre, our people did not let us forget. Not one of my family members ever let me forget about June 25th, 1876. It was forever told to me in many stories. This was the day, we kicked ass.
Custer didn’t see it. Reno saw it and still rode forward. Until he too, was advanced upon by those hiding when Reno thought he was attacking women and children. The warriors attacked him. Reno retreated, and my great great grandpa Lone Elk was one of the young warriors to chase him off. Back in that day there were a few women warriors who fought in that battle defending their family also. Moving Robe Woman, Hunkpapa Lakota is one who I admire.
See that is what Lakota are known for. Standing their ground. They were known for standing up for what they believe in. So when the Oglala were put on the reservation boundary in Pine Ridge after the great leaders were gone in 1882, one of the agreements between the elders and the government is that alcohol would remain illegal. In fact the President of the United States at the time, Chester A. Arthur decreed a fifty-square-mile buffer zone in Nebraska south of the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota at the urging of the U.S. Indian Agent and Oglala Lakota elders, for the protection of reservation residents from illegal whiskey bootleggers.
In 1889, and again in 1890, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation incorporating this buffer zone, known as the Whiteclay Extension, into the boundaries of the reservation. This land was designated by Congress to remain a part of the reservation until such time as its protective function was no longer needed.
While most people would like to believe that the first time a protest was held in Whiteclay, Nebraska was last year, or last week. Or in 1999. The first protest in Whiteclay was held in 1904. And many tribal members are angry about it, or ashamed, or just want everyone to stop. In reality, the first protest at Whiteclay was in 1904. It was when it was still known as Pine Ridge, the Whiteclay Extension. It was under then President Theodore Roosevelt’s, (whom I might add is carved into our sacred Paha Sapa-Black Hills) Executive Order that the Whiteclay Extension was deemed no longer needed. Despite protests from the elders in Pine Ridge and ignoring the Indian Agent at the time, and even some concerned white citizens that lived near the reservation, 49 of the 50 miles of the Whiteclay Extension was put up for land grab to the settlers in the area.
It was then, that unlicensed commercial establishments otherwise known as bootleggers began operating in the unincorporated village of Whiteclay, Nebraska for the next 40 years. Operation without the government caring even during the Prohibition years.
Whiteclay, Nebraska did NOT become legal to sell alcohol until the mid 1950’s when the state of Nebraska licensed two on sale bars to open. That means the government did not even once check on illegal alcohol operations there the previous 40 years while generations of the Oglala Lakota were still being held captive in parochial and federal boarding schools suffering abuse. Generations of our people would find comfort in what Whiteclay had to offer because the government did not allow their own spirituality. This tragedy would eventually have a trickle down effect on future generations that would last longer than Reaganomics…so far.
Whiteclay was switched to off-sale bars in the early 70’s, only 20 years after legally selling alcohol in two full service bars because of the amount of the high amount of deaths occurring between the unincorporated town and Pine Ridge, SD, the largest town on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Since then, there has always been four establishments that sold beer in Whiteclay, Nebraska. Because the town is unincorporated, it continually violates the state law by selling to intoxicated, underage, and/or pregnant, citizens of the reservation. Illegally trading booze for sexual favors, labor, etc.
One would think, why is there no law enforcement here? Why are they not being regulated? Why are there no undercover stings?
You also have to question the beginning of Whiteclay, Nebraska. If the United States Government did not care enough to control the sale of alcohol to the Lakota who defeated them at the battle of Greasy Grass in 1876 during the Prohibition period, why would they care now?
It brings into focus why President Roosevelt approved the land grab of the Whiteclay Extension illegally and without consulting the tribe.
To get rid of us.
And it is working. We are fighting amongst ourselves, we are dying. We all have lost family members due to alcohol. 100% of us are affected. We can all say it is a personal choice, yet we must look at the full impact of Whiteclay and we must also realize; would this go on in a suburb without regulation? We must wonder why the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms agency) has never wondered why year after year a town with a population of 14 can sell 14,000 cans of beer to an unincorporated town next to a federal land where alcohol is illegal? And why are people dying from it? If it were guns or bullets being sold like that and deaths occurring like that, do you think they would laugh it off?
On this day our ancestors fought the enemy attacking them, let us also show the government we know what is up. Let us get the President’s attention with a petition on his desk. Remember it only takes less than two minutes to sign, less the ten seconds to share it.
Whether you are for legalization or against it on the reservation, please think about and share the petition to at least get Obama’s attention in this matter. We want the land back that was illegally taken from us for one reason.
Because it is ours. And it has potential to be a beautiful little town.
And if you don’t believe in this: Remember a few short months ago when everyone thought Pe’sla was a pipe dream?
This song makes me wish, makes me want the days of our people working and fighting together.