FW: Last Call on Pine Ridge
jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Thu Aug 5 16:22:38 MDT 1999
From: Ish [mailto:ishgooda at tdi.net]
Sent: Thursday, August 05, 1999 2:15 PM
To: nativenews at mLists.net
Cc: prc at prairienet.org; serendipity at mLists.net;
warriornet at lists.speakeasy.org
Subject: Last Call on Pine Ridge
From: ClevAIM at aol.com
Message-ID: <3db692c8.24db4fa0 at aol.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999 16:35:44 EDT
Subject: Last Call on Pine Ridge
Last Call on Pine Ridge
In White Clay, Nebraska, death is on the house. The Lakotas have had their
White Clay, Nebraska...A dusty little rural slum with 10 crumbling
buildings, population 22. Bleached signs creaking on rusty hooks in the
scant breeze. Walls sagging under the weight of a merciless sun, paint
blistering. An empty pop can rolls down the main drag, clinking along past
paper sacks flattened in the gutter. Overhead, a buzzard silhouettes the
thermals of a cloud'ess sky. Crickets chirp in the weed-lined street as
George Strait moans a top-10 croaker through the gills of a single-speaker
radio. Flies buzzing. Wind exhaling another empty morning. And the sun
Around noon, a brace of spit-shined Nebraska state police cruisers file
in, staging themselves throughout White Clay, A/C warding off the scalding
sun behind dark glass. Looking towards Pine Ridge, two miles away, heat
risers swirl in eddies on the baking asphalt. First the chants are heard, a
funeral dirge wailed to the steady pounding of a drum. Then like a mirage,
thong of Lakotas appear on the vaporous horizon led by two tribal police
units. Stop for prayers. Onward. Stop for prayers. Onward. Children.
Elders. Fighters. The people. Hokahey!
The troopers in White Clay check their weapons. They've gone over the
tactical formation a dozen times. The word is out to hold back on force
until the last possible moment. We don't want an outbreak like last week,
Jim. Federal orders. Let's keep our cool on this one. Eyes on the road.
The protesters, a wall of flesh, cross the Pine Ridge reservation
and the Nebraska state line in the same step. 200 yards to go. Prayer
held high. The war cry goes up, Yooowwwwoooooppp Woooop Woooop! The coup
stick is thrown skyward. They head for the primary target, a local watering
hole called Arrowhead Inn, and the first eviction notice is taped to the
THE OGLALA LAKOTA OYATE, BEING THE LANDLORDS AND CAREGIVERS OF THIS LAND YOU
CALL WHITE CLAY, DO HEREBY GIVE YOU NOTICE TO CEASE AND DESIST THE SALE OF
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. FURTHERMORE, AS THE LAWFUL OWNERS OF THIS LAND UNDER
THE 1803, 1851, AND 1868 TREATIES WITH THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, WE DO HEREBY
TERMINATE YOUR LEASE, AS WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY LEASE PAYMENTS SINCE THE
LAND WAS ILLEGALLY TRANSFERRED IN 1904.
YOU HAVE 30 DAYS TO VACATE THE PREMISES. LEGAL ACTION WILL OCCUR IF YOU DO
NOT COMPLY WITH THIS NOTICE.
The coup stick strikes the air. 200 fists are raised. The war cry goes up
VJ's Market is next. The eviction posting is repeated a half dozen
as the cops sit dumbstruck; white knuckles grip fast the steering wheels.
They don't realize they've just been shamed in the Lakota manner of counting
coup. They don't realize they've been defeated. That the joke is on them.
This is a victory for the Oglala Lakotas. Another battle won in the long
of endurance against white lies, violence, hatred, racism, oppression,
Bodies by the road
"It has to stop," says Tom Poor Bear, cooling off his sweat-beaded brow
with a soft drink after the sweltering march. "Indian people are found dead
all over here and nobody does anything about it. If these were two white
people found murdered here, this place would be swarming with law
Poor Bear is a brother of Wilson Black Elk, 40, one of the latest
found murdered just yards inside the Pine Ridge Reservation line. On June
the mangled bodies of Black Elk and Ronald Hard Heart, 39, were found side
side in the waist-deep grass of a roadside ravine, brutally beaten to death.
After seeing little or no investigation of the murders, Poor Bear put in a
call to the American Indian Movement (AIM), asking for assistance in getting
action on the uninvestigated murders.
"Indian people in his country are still hunted," says Russell Means,
co-founder of AIM and a resident of Pine Ridge. "In the last five years,
there has been over a dozen uninvestigated murders of Indian people who has
been beaten to death on Pine Ridge. The coroner always says cause of death
was, not trauma to the head, but exposure. And they're buried without
The coroner in question is a forensic pathologist from Scottsbluff,
Nebraska, whose jurisdiction covers Sheridan County and White Clay.
"This guy has a bad track record of doing a thorough autopsy," says
Bear. "Take Anna Mae Aquash for instance, a very strong Indian woman. She
was found murdered on the reservation (1976), and her body was sent to
Scottsbluff for autopsy. The pathologist ruled she died of exposure. So we
exhumed her body, sent it to Rapid City for a second opinion, and found out
she was shot in the back of her head. And also a man named Bishnette who
killed by a BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) officer and sent to Scottsbluff
for autopsy. They ruled he was killed with one shot. We exhumed his body,
and he was shot eleven times." Poor Bear spends the next few minutes
down a list of names from memory of Lakotas murdered and quickly buried with
the coroner's catch-all "exposure" rulings.
The uninvestigated death in White Clay date to the 1972 fatal beating
Raymond Yellow Thunder, whose death spurred a 71-day siege of the Wounded
Knee hamlet led by the newly formed American Indian Movement. "Yellow
Thunder was beaten and thrown into the American Legion half naked," says
Bear, who also took part in the Wounded Knee siege. "and later on he was
beaten to death by two brothers and found dead in an abandoned car. These
people just got slaps on the wrists and walked away."
Mere manslaughter charges have become the staple consequence in
reservation border towns for killing Indians. Only two men have been
convicted to date in South Dakota of any of the killings.
"Everyone who kills an Indian here gets exonerated by all-white
says Means. "The racism is endemic in the conscious and subconscious of
America. But nobody cares. We're out of sight, out of mind."
Enter Charlie Wade
White Clay, an unincorporated town, enjoyed upwards of $4 million in
liquor sales last year, 99 percent which was poured down Indian throats.
That's approximately 2,800 cans of beer sold everyday to Lakota patrons, who
are forbidden by federal law to purchase and consume alcohol on the
reservation only two miles away. Day in and day out, carloads of Indians
stream into White Clay to purchase groceries and cold six-packs from white
business owners hawking the forbidden wares. But what to make of these
"I'll tell you like I told any other reporter," says Terry Robbins,
sheriff of Sheridan County Nebraska. "The United States tried to go through
a prohibition and they found out years ago it didn't work. If you've got
demand, businesses pop up."
As for the murders, protesters and families of the recently slain
a local Sheridan County deputy sheriff who patrols White Clay. From the
descriptions, the man is a walking, talking Charlie Wade incarnate, straight
off the set of John Sayles' controversial film, Lone Star.
"He has a history of verbally and physically abusing Indian people,"
Poor Bear. "He comes into White Clay and puts on his big black gloves,
lead-lined, and he physically hits the Lakota people. Personally, I feel
should be one of the top suspects in this."
Poor Bear adds that AIM has witnesses and statements from Lakotas who
have suffered the man's abuse.
"He's admitted to beating Indians in his custody when he has arrested
them," says Russell Means. "However, he's still deputy sheriff."
If this deputy sheriff were, in fact, implicated in the murders, what
action would the Sheridan County sheriff take?
"Well," says Sheriff Robbins, "first the investigation would have to
there was some implications, and as far as I know there's not been any
implications. All I know is that's just a rumor. It don't help matters
they put it in the paper and on TV. They're just a-fuelin' the fire."
Weeks before the bodies were found, according to a second brother of
slain man, threats were made to Wilson Black Elk. He owed a tab to a White
Clay bar owner, who threatened to "get my boys to handle it," if the bill
weren't paid promptly. Who are "my boys"?
"Skinheads from Rushville," the brother says, "or else the deputy
sheriff." Distrust lurks behind the warm eyes of Lakotas, who are calling
the string of murders serial killings. They fear that both the Sheridan
County authorities and the entire population of White Clay are covering up
"Sheridan County does have a history of racism. There is white
supremacist activity," adds Poor Bear, citing a White Clay proprietor as an
example. "He is a known white supremacist who has come out and beat people
in wheelchairs. His wife was known to pour hot water on people who stand in
front of his store."
And the fire rages...
The Eagle has Landed
Downtown Pine Ridge. Another sweltering day on the Rez. A cruel 110
the shade. Big Bat's gas pumps are jammed with brand new pickup trucks and
beat-up sedans, fender wells rotted out. Down the street, a few people are
tacking starched new flags to trees, a rare novelty in this island of Indian
Country. A charter coach rolls up to a Tribal Police car to ask directions.
The bus is stuffed with Secret Service agents, snipers, uniformed goons
to the teeth, plain clothes Indian infiltrators to mingle with the locals.
Then, in rolls the press, an army of stressed-out catch-the-next-clip news
junkies. Lakota elders sit on their porches inwardly giggling at the
rolling out before their eyes. The circus is in town. A three-ring sensual
feast of lugubrious politicking.
Presidents avoid Indian issues like it is a plague, so Bill Clinton's
July 7 stop at Pine Ridge had a special ring to it. A certain irony for
Mother America's forgotten children, the Oglala Lokota. Clinton's Pine
stopover on his speed-tour of severely impoverished areas marked the first
time in history that a U.S. President made an appearance on an American
As the Commander in Chief's official Chinook chopper touched down, a
battalion of slack-jawed cameramen rushed forward clawing at each other in
ignorant frenzy. The national press pushing the inexperienced local
reporters aside with a huff of the lungs, "excuse me." Shove. Like wolves
on steaming meat. What a thrill to get so close to the man that you can
reach out and slap him.
More Snake Oil, Mr. Bill?
After a storm of pat-downs, bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors,
placements of snipers, suspicious looks, and confiscated pocket knifes, the
event at Pine Ridge High campus gets under way. 2,000 heads, including 100
tribal leaders from around the country look up, watching with hungry eyes,
wondering what's on the menu. More broken promises? Could it possibly be
for real this time?
First the invocation from Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the sacred
buffalo calf pipe. Then a speech from Harold Salway, President of the
"Nearly 60 percent of the young people on the reservation live in
poverty. Life expectancy for Oglala men is the lowest in the United States.
We have more than 4,000 families waiting for homes, and our current housing
stock is in serious disrepair. Twenty percent of Oglala houses lack basic
plumbing. The unemployment in our community is recorded as high as 73
percent plus. But we have seen this rate soar higher and higher and harder
in worse times."
Not to mention the alcohol epidemic, a startling high school drop-out
rate, or one of the highest infant mortality rates in the western
hemisphere. Pine Ridge is well-known as the most economically distressed
locale in North America. Racked with these severe living standards, this
shadowland of progress has been continually swept aside by the governmental
hand. Discontent here is spiraling upward. But Clinton offers relief. On
this tour, armed with an entourage of senators, Jesse Jackson, and a string
of high-profile money moguls, the president promises growth in depressed
areas with his New Markets Initiative. The idea is to issue major tax
to fortune 500 companies willing to invest.
"When we are on the verge of a new millennium when people are
the miracles of technology..." The polished pork 'n' beans drawl rolls over
the sacred feathers of the elders' head dresses. "...and the world grows
closer and closer together, and our ability to learn from and with each
other, and make business partners with each other all across our globe, and
there's still reservations with few phones and no banks, when still three or
four families are forced to share two simple rooms. When these things still
persist, we cannot rest until we do better. And trying is not enough. We
have to have results."
Cheers, whistles, howls. Go Bill!
To the west of the field, 10 individuals are holding up "Free Leonard
Peltier" and "Honor the 1851 Treaty" signs, waving them at opportune moments
when Clinton's glance falls in that direction. Not even a wince. During a
silent spot when Clinton catches a breath, a brave woman yells out, "Hey
Bill, why don't you let Leonard go free?" Not even a blink. The event
on. The sweat pours down. The cameras click away in mania of break-neck
"Thank you all for coming. Good-bye."
Another stick figure with a tall hat for the Lakotas buffalo hide dairy
in the long parade of time.
The next day, all those starched new flags dangling from the trees on
main street the day before had disappeared.
As Long as the Grass Grows
"We want answers and we'll march until we get them," says Russell
He's not surprised that Clinton stuck to the agenda without addressing
Peltier's release, the broken treaties, the rash of uninvestigated Indian
deaths. "I'll get arrested again, and again, if I have to."
Means, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourte, founding members of the
American Indian Movement, were three of nine arrested during the second
"March for Justice" held on July 3. A clash with hundreds of Nebraska
police, decked out head-to-toe in the latest in armor technology, trying to
form a human barricade to prevent protestors from entering White Clay. The
nine were released soon afterward-orders from a Sheridan County judge who,
Means feels, got shaky at the thought of a throng of angry Indians swarming
the streets of Rushville.
"They figured out there's this thing called the Constitution," says
with a chuckle, addressing 200 ralliers at the July 7th march. "Today they
won't be trying to stop us."
Besides the murders and the alcohol sales, protestors refuse to
acknowledge Nebraska's claim to the White Clay area. Nebraska is
on Indian land, they say. The Lakota case against Nebraska and the U.S.
Government is a complicated web of American deceit dating to the 1851 and
1868 treaties, which describe Lakota title to lands ranging from the
Yellowstone River in the north, the Missouri River to the east, and the
Platte River to the south-an area nearly 100 times larger than the current
In 1874, George Armstrong Custer trespassed into the Black Hills on the
infamous Bozeman Trail, the only biway to the north, which happened to run
straight through Lakota lands. His mission? To spread propaganda about
recent discoveries of gold to money-hungry Easterners. What better way to
acquire Indian lands than to evoke a gold rush with mobs of whites racing
into the area, swarming through Indian lands. The military would naturally
be obliged to "protect" the white gold diggers with force, using the clash
deliver an onslaught of crushing blows to the Lakota. As planned, this
happened, spawning the 1876 Great Sioux War. And the rest is history. The
treaty was violated by both the gold diggers and the government who promised
to protect the Indians against white trespass.
As a result, the federal government raked off more than three-quarters
Lakota lands, quickly opening them for white settlers. Not surprisingly,
lands taken included the gold rich Black Hills, and all land near the
In 1946, the Indian Claims Commission was formed, permitting American
Indian Nations to sue U.S. government for land "takings" both legal and
illegal. If an Indian Nation could prove a "taking" occurred, that nation
was entitled to compensation for losses suffered. In the early 1970's, the
Lakota sued, a "taking" was demonstrated, and the Claims Commission awarded
measly $17.5 million-the 1877 dollar value of the stolen property. "In your
dreams!" said the Lakotas. "We want our land back."
Enter 1979. The U.S. Government crawled forward, admitting error in
earlier calculations. "Yes, you people deserve interest on that $17.5
million. In our calculations, the new figure comes out to a round $105
million." A steal. "Forget it!" said the Lakota. "It's the land we want."
Today the sum still sits untouched in a federal bank. The figure has
grown to a hefty $500 million since the 1970's, but the Lakotas adamantly
refuse to take the money. By doing so, they reason, it would seal the shady
"Americans cannot conceive of that type of thinking or that value
system," says Means. "That we'd rather suffer the misery of poverty than to
sell our holy land. You would think the world would look at us in
and awe instead of killing us."
The Coup Is Counted
After the rally, the file of Oglala marchers ease down an embankment to
"Camp Justice," a bivouac of protest with two massive tipis towering in the
velvet sky. A tub of Indian soup simmering on the fire, cold drinks, and
good friends. The world is circulating that another Lakota, known by all,
was found yesterday floating face-down in Rapid Creek, a mile from Rapid
City. More stories circulate in whispers. Yet another Lakota man was found
yesterday beaten to death and stuffed into a garbage can in Mobridge, a
town of Northern South Dakota. Apparently, four rich white kids were
apprehended in the murder. Their bonds were $250K, but they were released
the same day. Suspicions run high. The numbers pile up. It never ends out
Through the buffalo grass you can see the spot were the bodies of Black
Elk and Hard Heart were found. A small triangular fence enshrouds the site,
tied with red prayer cloths and piled with sage and food offerings so the
departed spirits will have full stomachs on their journey into the next
Tipis and human gatherings are not foreign to this shaded knoll. In
late 1800's White Clay was known as the Red Cloud Agency, where Chief Red
Cloud and his band resided during the winter months. His ponies were
undoubtedly tied to the same trees that the marchers shade themselves under
this very moment, the fir, the willow and dogwood.
"Red Cloud would be proud of us today," someone says.
Camp Justice will serve as a resting place, a center of protest until
murders, the alcohol sales, and the treaty violations are answered for. It
stands as a testament that through decades of racial abuse and deceit, the
Lakotas share a lasting unity. A rare and enduring strength. AIM and the
Oglala people plan to stage marches every Saturday until their demands are
"I'm a great believer," says Means, "in what Felix Cohen said in the
1920's. 'The American Indian is the miner's canary of freedom in this
country.' I'll tell you, the miner's canary is dead. But with these
to White Clay, maybe the miner's canary is being revived. We're twitching.
This is a rebirth of a nation whose sole reason for existence is to be free.
And that's what we're gonna be again."
Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html
doctrine of international copyright law.
Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)
Unenh onhwa' Awayaton
UPDATES: CAMP JUSTICE
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