This decision was no moral crusade to save Indians on the dry Pine Ridge Reservation from drunkenness, says commission exec Hobert Rupe:
“They voted to deny the reapplications, because they don’t believe there’s adequate law enforcement present in Whiteclay to ensure compliance with the act,” Rupe says.
…Two weeks ago the commission held an 11-hour evidentiary hearing. Rupe says that did not include moral arguments related to beer sales. He says the scope was adequate policing.
“It’s a very unique situation. It’s an unincorporated village, so there’s no local law enforcement. It’s just from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, which are located 25 miles away. Then compare that,” Rupe says. Whiteclay is within walking distance of 4,000 to 5,000 people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is a dry Indian reservation” [Kealey Bultena, “Nebraska Panel Denies Whiteclay Liquor License Applications,” SDPB Radio, 2017.04.19].
There is certainly a moral component to alcohol sales in Whiteclay. Making money by facilitating alcoholism just isn’t right.
But the Nebraska commission is focusing on a practical aspect of the market. Nebraska is able to exploit its proximity to the reservation and reap all the benefits while sticking Pine Ridge and South Dakota with almost all of the costs. If a community is going to engage in business that has predictable law-enforcement costs, that community should budget for those costs. If a town (or, technically, in this case, a cluster of shops that don’t file papers to become a town) has the wherewithal to sell millions of cans of beer each year, it has a duty to pay for a police force to regulate what inevitably happens when people buy and consume those millions of cans of beer. Don’t think of that requirement as a moral argument; think of it as a simple expression of the cost of doing business.
South Dakota, where nearly all Whiteclay beer is consumed, doesn’t see a penny in tax receipts. Instead, every can consumed by South Dakota residents costs their state $1.59, according to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on a standard-size alcoholic drink, like a shot of whiskey or a 12-ounce beer, the CDC number takes into account all costs attributable to excessive drinking, including those in the health care, law enforcement and criminal justice systems as well as the cost of reduced workplace productivity.
But $1.59 is an average cost to South Dakota for each alcoholic beverage consumed in the state. Whiteclay alcohol is likely to carry an even higher price tag; at 24 ounces, cans of Hurricane and Camo Black Ice are twice the size of a standard beer and four times the alcohol content [Natasha Rausch, “Whiteclay’s Sales Cost Taxpayers Tens of Millions Annually,” Lincoln Journal Star, 2017.01.02].
Ah, externalities. Maybe while we fuss about taxing Internet sales (by the way, Amazon is collecting sales tax for 33 states and D.C. but not us), we should also be looking for a way to get Whiteclay beer sellers to pay South Dakota for the mess their $1.50 24-ounce cans of get-drunk-now make on their neighbors’ lawn.
Or maybe we should enlist the Dakota Access protestors to occupy Whiteclay, assert treaty rights, and help South Dakota and Pine Ridge annex the town. (By the way, on average, it’s 13°F warmer in January in Pine Ridge than up in Fort Yates.)
Donald, 60, has lived on his family’s land his whole life. Time passes slowly in his corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and at no point in his six decades have local authorities connected his family’s miniature community of shacks and trailers to the reservation’s electricity grid or provided them with running water.
They use car batteries and generators for a few hours of electricity a day, and Donald heats up a five-gallon bucket of water on a wood stove to bathe and wash his clothes a few times a week.
…Although Channels Five, Nine and Twelve broadcasted the highly publicised presidential debates between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart Donald Trump, Donald explains that he was only able to watch the highlights on the news.
“It doesn’t really make a difference to us here,” he says of the forthcoming elections.
With neither Trump nor Clinton speaking to their specific needs, many Pine Ridge residents say they have been forgotten by mainstream society, abandoned by politicians and neglected by state institutions.
After years of pleading with the local tribal government – which administers the reservation on a semi-autonomous basis – and county authorities for running water and electricity, Donald resigned himself to spending his remaining years without either. “I eventually gave up,” he recalls. “They just say they can’t help me. It’s a waste of time” [Patrick Strickland, “Life on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation,” Aljazeera, 2016.11.02].
Let’s hope the Cannonball protestors all voted absentee before heading up to North Dakota. Their votes for the second President Clinton may not get Donald Morrison electricity and running water right away, but she’s the only shot Donald has at making progress on Native issues.
In more Indian-friendly news, Henry Red Cloud and Jay Williams are campaigning together this weekend. The Democratic Public Utilities Commission and U.S. Senate candidates will march together in the Grand Procession at the 31st Annual Oglala Lakota Nation Wacipi Saturday evening in Pine Ridge. Williams will also tour the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on Sunday.
Candidate Williams offers praise for Red Cloud’s practical efforts to promote renewable energy on the reservation:
I am looking forward to visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation and joining in the Grand Procession with Henry Red Cloud on Saturday. Henry is a visionary leader who is leading the way for our country in the transition from fossil fuel energy to clean renewable energy. Henry’s solar energy company provides Native Americans with solar energy systems. Henry’s in-depth knowledge of solar energy systems brings a new dimension to the Public Utilities Commission. South Dakota is fortunate to have a man of Mr. Red Cloud’s stature running to serve on the PUC. With the extraordinary warming of our planet which scientists agree is a result of man’s use of fossil fuel energy, it is imperative that we move away from fossil fuel energy and Henry Red Cloud is leading the way [Jay Williams, press releases, 2016.08.04].
Speaking of Democratic synergy, as he touts clean energy, Red Cloud is looking for some up-ticket synergy with our Presidential nominee:
If we had been systematically working to support renewable energy and building the infrastructure, we would be poised to become a world class producer of clean energy. South Dakota has great minds and business people. We have outstanding solar and wind resources.
But we haven’t been making the investment in the future. Instead we are putting our farmers, ranchers and tribes at risk. Their health…their children’s health should be all of our concern. Let’s make the transition to a better future and stop forcing our farmers, ranchers and tribes to accept ever more pipelines that split our lands and leave the oil spill liabilities on our land owners!.
VOTE for the OTHER HRC – Henry Red Cloud! [Henry Red Cloud, Facebook post, 2016.08.03]
The unincorporated village of Whiteclay, Nebraska, is notorious for selling 3.5 million cans of beer a year to residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. All that beer available just across the border from a legally dry reservation has fueled public drunkenness and related crime and health problems for decades, but longtime local grocer Lance Moss didn’t decide Whiteclay needed to take some constructive action until his own wife was threatened:
Moss has worked at the store most of his 47 years but something changed when, he says, his wife was accosted.
“The guy was just out in the parking lot trying to get people to give him change,” he said relating the incident. “(My wife) went out and told him to leave and he just went off on her. He followed her into the store. I thought he was going to assault her and I had to get between them.”
Moss took a plea for change to the Sheridan County Commission who forwarded his idea to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. Ricketts asked Moss to forma local committee of merchants, government leaders, clergy and law enforcement to brainstorm for solutions.
“He asked us just to sit down in an informal way and come up with some suggestions that we might give to the governor for the improvement of conditions in Whiteclay,” said Sheridan County Commissioner James Krotz who serves on the ad hoc committee [Stewart Huntington, “Merchants Want Chaos in Border Town Brought Under Control,” KOTA-TV, 2016.07.20].
Addiction is a tricky monster: we can say that addicts at least bear some responsibility for the choices that lead them to their addictions, but we can debate the extent to which an addict can simply choose to end the addiction. Those who facilitate and cash in on addiction have no excuse for continuing their behavior: they are making a living by exploiting weak, vulnerable neighbors who need help, not a cheap can of beer.
Of the 18 member council, 14 were present. Nine council representatives voted in favor of the motion to stop the election: Sonia Little Hawk-Weston (Wakpamni District), Marilyn Charging Crow (Eagle Nest District), Collins “CJ” Clifford (Wounded Knee District), Floyd Brings Plenty (Oglala District), Ellen Fills The Pipe (Oglala District), Jackie Siers (Wakpamni District), Blaine Little Thunder (Eagle Nest District), David Pourier (Porcupine District) and James Cross (Pass Creek District).
Four council representatives voted against the motion to stop the election: Ella John Carlow (Pine Ride District), Chauncy Wilson (Medicine Root District), Donn Fire Thunder (LaCreek District), and Craig Dillion (LaCreek District). Patrick Ross (Porcupine District) voted to abstain.
“We, as legislators, spend a majority of our time dealing with social problems, most due to alcohol abuse. I have to be a voice for the children and the generations to come. Legalizing alcohol is not the answer. It’s like encouraging the use of alcohol to make money off our own people who are already fighting this disease,” stated Council Representative Jackie Siers [Natalie Hand, “Oglala Lakota Stop Vote on Alcohol,” Native Sun News, 2016.05.18].
“We know Avera (Health), we know Sanford (Health),” Rosebud Sioux council representative William Bear Shield said referring to two health systems based in South Dakota. “If it would have been any one of those two, I would have said ‘Great. I feel comfortable.’ But we are going to have to see what this AB Staffing Solutions is about. We are concerned, that’s for sure” [Regina Garcia Cano, “Feds Hire Contractor to Run ERs at Hospitals on Reservations,” AP via ABC News, 2016.05.17].
Democratic candidate for U.S. House Rep. Paula Hawks would have preferred something other than more privatization:
“I am concerned that we are shifting responsibility, not holding ourselves accountable to deliver the type of visionary leadership needed to improve living conditions in Indian country. We’ve seen through the privatization of EB-5 and the Gear Up education grants, these shifts result in less accountability, not more. To me—this is a Washington solution, pass the buck and affix blame elsewhere,” said Hawks.
…“These are complex situations that require comprehensive solutions. Education, health care, economic development—all are so interrelated that you can’t begin to tackle problems in one area without quickly stepping into them in another. Contracting to a private entity might deliver a Band-Aid, but it doesn’t provide the type of long-term planning needed in tribal communities,” Hawks said [Hawks for House campaign, press release, 2016.05.17].
But whoever provides the services, IHS’s first priority is to get qualified doctors and nurses in place to offer the quality emergency care Rosebud residents are entitled to under treaty.
South Dakota’s Bernie Sanders supporters have been avidly phonebanking for the Vermont Senator in other states. Now they get the chance to see the most popular Presidential candidate here in South Dakota. The honest socialist will rally his troops in Pine Ridge and Rapid City Thursday!
When a Presidential candidate makes the effort to come to South Dakota four weeks before the primary, that’s a pretty clear signal that he’s not giving up. Now if we can just get our West River legislative candidates to get some face time with the Senator and convince him to direct his supporters and resources into bringing his revolution to the South Dakota Legislature….
But timing! Oh, timing—Senator Sanders will miss the Black Hills Bernfest by just one day!
Black Hills grassrootsers are putting on a big concert at the Seed Theater, 412 5th St., Rapid City, on Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight. According to the Black Hills Bernfest Facebook page, the show will feature speaker and organizer Chas Jewett and the following performers:
Deb Lux and Gordy Pratt (Americana, Rapid City)
Katrina Wilke (Dance, Rapid City)
Mystery Pills (Lo-fi Pop, Rapid City)
Miguel Wambli (Spoken Word, Rapid City)
Linda Boyle (Social Justice Singer/Songwriter, Nemo)
Steve Thorpe (Legendary Singer/Songwriter, Lead)
DJ Kelly Kellz (Progressive Jams, Rapid City)
Amanda Conway (Alternative Folk, Rapid City)
DJ Micah (Open Format DJ, Rapid City)
In Your Face Painting Magick, LLC
Come on, Bernie—for a show like that, you can stick around for another day, right?
Update 06:47 CDT: South Dakota Democratic Party exec Suzanne Jones Pranger welcomes Senator Sanders: “We are excited to welcome Senator Bernie Sanders to South Dakota. I think he’ll find an active, enthusiastic group of progressives ready to fight on behalf of our shared values this fall—open and transparent government that serves the people over special interests, access to quality education and affordable health care.”
The Lakota people say their language originated from the creation of the tribe, long before Europeans came to North America. But the number of speakers has shrunk through the decades, falling to 6,000 by the early 2000s and to just 2,000 as of last year. Those remaining have an average age approaching 70 [Regina Garcia Cano, “In Effort to Preserve Language, Website Posts News in Lakota,” AP, 2016.03.18].
Interest in reading about South Dakota politics online has grown since I jumped into the blogosphere; let’s hope the same holds true for interest in reading Lakota online now that Woihanble is offering that opportunity.
I don’t know if this will help anbody or not, but for me it has to be said. From the time I was very small I looked at the lands that we lived on or near in a different way from most of the people around me. It was never fueled by what could be done with those lands but the health of the land itself and how it was being treated by the people that walked on it. From the beginning it was about a feeling that I would get when I came to one of these places, and then as I got older it was a realization that it was a sense of inner peace. There are many places like that on the Pine Ridge. I’m going to tell you about just one, Eagles Nest Butte.
The first time I climed the butte under my own power was when I was six years old. Our little one-room school at Plainview, a mile east of our house, always took a field trip in the late spring to Eagles Nest. Until about fifteen years ago I averaged one climb a year, sometimes more then one. It was always a surprise to me that while everyone enjoyed where they were, nobody seemed to understand that what they were standing on was a part of both physical and natural history. It was just an outing to them. At the time I didn’t understand that I was seeking answers to questions that I still didn’t know how to ask.Before you can begin to get a grasp of my inner workings, it might help to have a physical description of the Nest.
It isn’t big, roughly three hundred feet high and mayby a mile from one end at the bottom to the other. But other than its sister to the south Buzzard Butte, it is the tallest piece of ground around for miles.
When you drive around the base, you begin to see things that look out of place. First, while the south side is mostly dirt, the north face has that same dirt but also shows the very edge of the badlands and something unique, pumice. That’s right, there are big old pumice boulders all over the north side.
It is the top that grabs most people’s attention. There was a fire lookout up there that stayed pretty much in one piece. You would see twenty kids going both directions on those steep steps.
That tower was at the pinnacle and to the north was the biggest stretch of open ground. If you walk to the east you will find a vision pit, to the west you will find trees with, now, thousands of ribbons and little bags of tobacco tied to their branches. I could lie here and say that I felt the spirit of those that came before me, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was something completely different from that.
The butte holds many memories for me. One of those involves a friend and his Cub. I got a call one morning when I was in my early twenties by a man who will remain nameless. He wanted me to fly with him for a couple of hours before the air started heating up in the summer heat.
He put it down in front of the house and we first headed south along Pass Creek to the high hills that are north east Bennett County. Then he turned to the west and headed towards Buzzard. We never flew very high and by the time we went around the west corner of Buzzard Butte we were less the 500 feet off the ground. When we approached the Nest, he got below the rim and we made a slow circle around it. We had just gone by the tower when he tapped me on the shoulder and yelled, “Do you think there is room to land this thing up there?”
I have landed with him in some pretty short spaces but not that short. We made our approach from the northeast, by the rag on the tower it was just right to head into. There was good uphill run to land and not a lot of space. We hit a little hard but not bad and he was grabbing as much dirt as his brakes could hold and finally we stopped.
It wasn’t until we got out that I realized we had run out of room at the same time, working the oversized tires just barely between two rocks. We picked the tail up and pulled it back turned it around, and I held on while he got back in, started the motor and held the brakes. It was then that I started to understand the predicament we were in, a real short runway.
There is nothing more exciting than the feeling of a plane that just doesn’t have enough speed to lift off in the space it has. We dropped off the north side about sixty feet before we hit the bottom of the air pocket and started back up. It was a year before I could make myself get back in a little plane.
In all I’ve spent four nights on the top of the butte. Two of those times were timed with a full moon, one was a foggy but warm night, and then there was this one.
There were four of us. We had spent the afternoon fishing at the dam north of the house and had planned to camp there. We had just stopped fishing to eat when the conversation started on the Nest some fifteen miles away. All of us had been there before but for some reason none of us could could stop talking about it. It was then that someone had the idea that we should repack the ATVs and camp on Eagles Nest Butte, and so it began.
We put all the camping suplies in the back of my six wheeler and headed west. It was late spring and there was an energy in the renewal that happens every year at that time. It took us a while to get there and we were climbing the old rutted-out jeep trail as the sun was going over the west rim.
First we got camp set up and cooked some burgers on the Coleman and started looking around. The vision pit had seen recent use and there was a new tarp covering it, but nothing else had changed. The tower was no longer climb safe but it was sure handy to hang things on. It wasn’t until it started getting dark that we realized there was just a sliver of a moon already going down. That is when the magic that is Eagles Nest started.
When you are on the top, you can see town lights all over. Kadoka to the north, Martin to the south, Wanblee just to the north a few miles and Belvidere east of Kadoka. There were dozens of farm lights in every direction and you could see cars on 44, 73, the Norris–Long Valley road, and part of the Corn Creek road going north. We talked about what it would have looked like a thousand years before.
When complete darkness came we were already “in the mood,” so when the Milky Way started to show it was special. It hung down and reminded us how it got its name.
There was zero humidity, and the night air had a chill, but the stars were putting on a show. For about six hours we set and talked. It wasn’t our normal conversation but talk about where we were and the people that came before us. At one point someone said they could look down and see stars. I know it was only an optional illusion but it seemed real.
It was that night that I finally found what had been so elusive in my head. It was that night that I realized that I had the same feeling when I was on Pass Creek, down in one of the badland basins, setting on one of the other buttes, or fishing on the Big and Little White rivers. It wasn’t spiritual, but it was a peace of mind. It’s as if the conflicts of the day would disappear while I was at any of those places. It was tranquility.
If you have a good imagination, you can feel the peoples that were here a thousand years before us. You know they used the Nest for the safety of the people, and for the same use as the tower was for.
Spike, “Only A Few Can Hear The Drums” [a song Dithmer wrote] is about those places and feelings. You can take a hundred people to the same place, but very few will feel the connection to the past.
While I understand the dire need for commercialization on the Pine Ridge, I find my heart and my mind at odds with one another. My mind says there must be tourism to start the process of rebuilding the tribe. But my heart refuses to accept the encroachment of more civilization on the places I love. I’m sure there are many elders that feel the same way.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to build the future without killing a little of the past along the way. It will take a clear mind for the ones that will be making those decisions. Right now there should be a sign on every road onto the Pine Ridge. It should read the same on both sides. “FAILURE TO ADMINISTRATE.” There has been a bunch of that going on for far too long on both sides of the line.
Maybe some of these places should be left as they were meant to be, without the problems of those that would come there. It will be a fine line that must be walked to protect some of these natural monuments, but doing nothing isn’t even an option.
For most people these places are just a name on a map. For a few like me they are much more than that. The argument between my heart and my mind continues.
The Blindman [Bill Dithmer, comment, Dakota Free Press, 2015.12.29]