I recently saw and read a resolution passed by the Nebraska Democratic Party in Chadron calling for the cessation of alcohol sales at Whiteclay. It said that alcohol should never again be sold at Whiteclay and illegally taken onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota “as long as the grass shall grow, the water flows and the Lakota remain sovereign.”

As I think about these words and reflect on all the death and destruction we as Nebraskans have exported to the Lakota people under “the color of law” and the premise of free enterprise, I cannot help but ponder what the future holds for us and our neighbors.

We have taken advantage of the vulnerable Lakota, whose culture we have damaged, and I cannot feel good about knowing many will suffer through their lives because of our greed. The Whiteclay debacle does not end when the Nebraska Supreme Court acts once and for all to close the beer sellers down, but the first step will have been taken.

It will take generations to give back to the Lakota all that Nebraska has taken from them. But let the work begin.

I recently traveled twice to Camp Whiteclay Justice to memorialize those murdered at Whiteclay in the last two decades and to remember Russell Means, Chief Oliver Red Cloud and other Lakota activists who first elevated the issue of lawlessness that brought me, and countless others, to the Whiteclay struggle.

The people I met there have become emboldened by the prospect of a permanent Whiteclay shutdown and are beginning to talk of the lawlessness, murders and deaths that are attributable to Sheridan County’s reluctance or failure to investigate pretty much anything that might stop the flow of alcohol at Whiteclay.

I was told the four homicides that we focus on in that unincorporated town of nine people – Little John Means, Ronald Hard Heart, Wilson Black Elk and Sherry Wounded Foot – as tragic as they are, in no way are a complete list of those murdered in and around Whiteclay.

Am I to question the veracity of those who come forward now that they feel that they will be heard? Or do I ignore them and rely on Sheridan County officials who did not even investigate the Wounded Foot crime scene at Whiteclay until 42 days after she was murdered? That task was only turned over to the State Patrol weeks after the death was noted at the Liquor Control Commission, well after the crime scene was disturbed. How could a serious forensic report be done?

I will listen to the Lakota people – and we all should.

I opine that, when the stores close for good, that the United States Department of Justice, the FBI, the Nebraska attorney general, Nebraska State Patrol and the governor establish a cold case unit to go to Whiteclay to break the apparent Sheridan County code of silence and tell all what really happened there.

There are many more than four Lakota families who will mourn forever because of Whiteclay. There are many more than four murders there. Does that not trouble us? It should.

There are many ghosts at Whiteclay. They will haunt Nebraska “as long as the grass shall grow and the water flows.” Sadly, that is how I see it as a Nebraskan.

Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Nation, is director of the Four Directions Community Center in Sioux City, Iowa, and serves northeastern Nebraska. He lives in South Sioux City.


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