Tuesday, June 20, 2006
ROADBLOCK PLANNED TO STOP FLOW OF ALCOHOL TO PINE RIDGE RESERVATION FROM NEBRASKA TOWN
Alcohol sales at Whiteclay, Nebraska devastate South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and should be stopped, Sheridan County commissioners were told March 6 by Indian activists, elders and others. The County commission ignored the warning. So did the Nebraska court system.
Indians have decided to deal with the situation themselves and plan a road blockade beginning next week.
Whiteclay is the infamous northwest Nebraska village which lies on the border of the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol have been prohibited since the 1960s. Whiteclay with a population of only 14 has since the early 1970s been the site of four offsale alcohol dealers responsible for the sale of over 12,000 cans of beer a day, largely to the residents of Pine Ridge, who have virtually no legal place to drink them. The licensing of dealers has continued under conditions of inadequate law enforcement and in the face of overwhelming evidence of dealer violations of liquor laws, including numerous sales to minors.
The Whiteclay liquor stores are so infamous that a gang used them in an internal business plan to market meth on various Indian reservations.
Assistant Wyoming U.S. Attorney Robert Murray, an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, helped prosecute and break up the drug gang's distribution ring. Murray said he was amazed and disturbed when he learned of the business plan used by the drug ring gangsters.
"It actually started with a news article they read in the Denver Post a few years ago," Murray said. The article described how liquor stores in the tiny town of Whiteclay, Neb., were profitably selling huge quantities of alcohol to American Indians from the nearby Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
Gleaned from several sources in the investigation, the following picture emerged, Murray said. The drug gang business plan was based on the following information:
* The Whiteclay liquor stores sold $4 million a year in beer and malt liquor primarily to residents of the nearby Pine Ridge reservation -- 18,000 Oglala Lakota Sioux.
* The reservation had an alcoholism problem of epidemic proportions.
* Liquor sales peaked each month shortly after monthly per-capita checks were sent in the mail.
* Gang members reasoned that if people who were addicted to alcohol could be given free samples of meth, the addicts would quickly switch over to being addicted to meth.
* The Mexican-national gang members figured they wouldn't stand out among American Indians.
According to Murray, the plan identified a potential consumer base (Indians living on reservations or nearby); successful businesses that already preyed on addicts (the liquor stores); a regular source of income their customers could use to buy meth (the monthly checks); and the conviction that alcohol consumers could be switched over to being meth consumers (free samples of meth).
"It was all there," Murray said, referring to the elements of a classic business plan. The gang led by Cruz and his brother, Julio Cesar Sagaste-Cruz could distribute the meth via customers who would be forced to become dealers to support their own habits. The meth could be supplied by "super labs" in California and Mexico, controlled by the Sinaloan Cowboys gang.
Law enforcement officials traced the connections from the Sinaloan Cowboys (headquartered in Sinaloa, Mexico) to the Los Angeles-based 18th Street Gang, to the Cruz brothers' cell in Ogden.
"They realized that if they could convert the addiction from alcohol to meth, they could reap the profits," Murray said.
The following is from the Lakota Times.
Whiteclay road blocks to start June 28
Dr. Archie B. Beauvais, Correspondent
PINE RIDGE - A number of organizers, including Nebraskans for Peace, Strong Hearts Civil Rights Movement, and supporters from the Cherokee Nation, are planning to set up a blockade on the South Dakota side of the state line to stop people who buy beer and transport it back to the Pine Ridge reservation.
June 28 is the target date when activists will set up the blockade with hopes to quell the purchase of an estimated 12,000 cans of beer a day in Whiteclay. The plan is to continue the blockade through the summer and into the fall.
Organizers would have their members posted in Whiteclay at any one of the four liquor establishments and would inform those at the blockade as to who was purchasing beer. The activists would then stop the car at the state line and proceed to confiscate their liquor purchases which are illegal on the Pine Ridge reservation.
Duane Martin, Sr. of the Strong Hearts Civil Rights movement is a fluent Lakota speaker and is at the forefront of the activism that seeks to make a change in the tremendous impact that alcohol is continuing to inflict on the social and health conditions of the Pine Ridge reservation. He said, "The elders came to me and asked. I and Russell Means took the fight to the Nebraska Liquor Commission. Frank LaMere and Mark Vasina also helped. They said we were bluffing. I presented the complaint to a couple of liquor stores and only one took me seriously, because I know him. This avenue will bring about change. Pine Ridge has the highest rate of involvement and activism. Senator John Thune called right before you did. The treaties are intact and give us a right to take a stand."
The March 13 decision by the Sheridan County Board of Commissioners to automatically grant liquor license renewals in Whiteclay and a March 31 by the Nebraska Supreme Court to allow a liquor license to the Arrowhead Inn prompted the decision to undertake the blockade, according to the Lincoln Start Journal. The Journal also included a "viewer comment" in which one reader wrote, "What about Native Americans in South Dakota who are also getting wealthy from selling packaged liquor to people from the reservation such as those who own bars in Oelrichs and Martin?" Another reader, Jon, wrote, "Well, good luck with that. The problem is free enterprise versus the disease of alcoholism. You can't really say that it's a moral issue because anyone who's willing to sell alcohol so close to the reservation doesn't have any."
Furthermore, Martin, Sr. said, "If we don't take a stand today, there won't be a stand tomorrow."
Mark Vasina, the President of Nebraskans for Peace is equally as committed to seeing the blockade succeed. His organization is relying on the Strong Hearts Civil Rights group as they seek to interpret treaty law as it applies to such questions as the legality of confiscating beer purchases and whether or not those in the blockade need to be deputized in order to stop vehicles at the border.
Vasina said, "The need to be deputized is a question for the Indians to resolve. We support what they are doing. We, of course, don't want to see violence. We hope the tribal police will support the blockade. Knowing responsible law enforcement, they have to be there."
Furthermore, Vasina said, "People are going to be stopping an illegal action.., my hope is that no other commercial traffic is impeded. People will not be detained or arrested, but simply to prevent alcohol from going in, which is unlawful."
Finally, Vasina said that Nebraskans for Peace support the blockade and are raising money which will be needed to feed people and provide other amenities, while a camp will most likely be erected. He said that his organization is also arranging for celebrities, politicians, and candidates to be at the blockade on June 28. Vasina, himself, will be at the blockade at least two weeks out of each month that it is in effect.
Alex White Plume, Acting President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe said, "This is a grass roots movement at Whiteclay. There will no more alcohol on the reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribal council passed a tribal resolution declaring Whiteclay a public nuisance. Under the IRA, there is a 12 mile buffer zone to keep bootleggers and alcohol sales from the reservation. I am thinking of deputizing everyone on the blockade. We are inviting everyone from Rosebud and Pine Ridge."