Whiteclay is an unincorporated village with a population of 14 people in northwest Nebraska. The town sits on the border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota (also known as the Oglala Sioux Tribe).
Whiteclay lies on disputed land, merely 200 feet from the official reservation border and less than 3 miles from the center of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the largest town on the reservation.
Sale and possession of alcoholic beverages on the Pine Ridge is prohibited under tribal law. Except for a brief experiment with on-reservation liquor sales in the early 1970s, this prohibition has been in effect since the reservation lands were created.
Whiteclay has four off-sale beer stores licensed by the State of Nebraska which sell the equivalent of 4.5 million 12-ounce cans of beer annually (12,500 cans per day), mostly to the Oglalas living on Pine Ridge. These retailers routinely violate Nebraska liquor law by selling beer to minors and intoxicated persons, knowingly selling to bootleggers who resell the beer on the reservation, permitting on-premise consumption of beer in violation of restrictions placed on off-sale-only licenses, and exchanging beer for sexual favors. The vast majority of those who purchase beer in Whiteclay have in fact no legal place to consume it, since possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the Pine Ridge Reservation remain illegal under tribal law. Many people have died in the streets due to exposure, as the state of Nebraska fails to uphold state law or police Whiteclay. As long as the liquor stores in Whiteclay remains in business, the genocide of the Oglala Lakota people will continue.
Tribal activists of the Strong Heart Warrior Society have conducted annual blockades since 1999, trying to intercept alcohol and drugs being brought into the reservation. In June 2006 tribal activists protested beer sales by blockading the road from Pine Ridge to Whiteclay and confiscating beer bought in Whiteclay. These activists hoped to prevent bootlegging and illegal sales on the reservation. On June 9th of this year, young Lakota activists and their non-native allies held a blockade of the highway leading into Whiteclay, and gained concessions from law enforcement.
In solidarity with the Oglala Lakota people, members of Deep Green Resistance are assisting an action now to shut down the bars in Whiteclay forever.
Updates on action:
Sun. August 26, 2012 (All times MDT)
As of 10:00 PM: Police and firefighters unable to unlock the blockaders once at the jail. The five released without bail after agreeing to unlock themselves.
7:59 PM: Tribal police have come into Nebraska to block support to the folks on lockdown. Nebraska State Patrol has brought in a trailer and carried the lockdown, as a unit, onto the trailer (one person may have sustained injuries due to this police maneuver). They are now being transported to the jail. They are still locked together. Stay tuned for updates on the protestors’ status and information on how to help!
6:22 PM: Police are bringing in a livestock trailer to attempt to move the blockade as a unit to a different location. They have threatened the blockaders with felony charges. Blockaders have decided to hold their ground. This is what resistance looks like.
5:30 PM: Police have threatened to arrest another protester.
4:20 PM: There’s a line of cops, a line of warriors, and a line of blockaders. There’s a huge banner that says “Honor the Treaties”. Lakota people are chanting and drumming.
4:00 PM: All four bars in Whiteclay have been shut down. Two arrests have been made. Police have issued an ultimatum that all those locked down in Whiteclay must walk back to the reservation or they will be arrested.