Press Statement from NDP Officer and Winnebago Nation Leader Frank LaMere
The long nightmare of Whiteclay is over but we are not waking up to a brighter day! Let us, as Nebraskans, not fool ourselves in any way about the wounds we have inflicted there under the “color of law” to support a false premise about free enterprise, personal choice, and even constitutional rights!
Until this day Nebraska has allowed Sheridan County and Whiteclay, NE to become synonymous with lawlessness, death, and the destruction of the Oglala Lakota people. It is not hyperbole to say that many thousands of our neighbors on the Pine Ridge Reservation have died because of the liquid genocide that has been tolerated there and because those in the public trust have failed to protect and to serve the most vulnerable among us. There can be no mistake about that!
We cannot deny that Nebraska, the state that touts The Good Life, has been complicit in the destruction of the fabric of life for the Lakota people and that we as Nebraskans have extracted an incalculable amount of money from the Lakota people on the South Dakota border and have shipped the revenue and taxes south while exporting the death and misery north onto the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation! Sadly, this scenario has not been the exception but has been the rule in our dealing with our Lakota neighbors. Perhaps things will now change, perhaps not. We will see!
The NE Supreme Court acted today in Nebraska. Alcohol sales to those at Pine Ridge who have no legal place to drink it have ceased. It is my hope that the flow of alcohol from Whiteclay, NE to the Lakota people has ended “as long as the grass shall grow, the waters flow and the Lakota remain sovereign.” I believe it is a good day!
Perhaps we can begin to heal in NE and on Pine Ridge but it will take some time! There are old attitudes and old ideas that many in Sheridan County still hold about their Native American neighbors that will not go away soon. But a step has been taken today and healing can begin if we all can open our hearts and our minds.
Restoration and reconciliation efforts must be initiated immediately if we as neighbors all wish to live, to grow and to flourish! The damage caused by the greed of the few must be offset by the actions of the thousands who do feel that we are all in this together as Nebraskans and that what hurts one hurts the other and what benefits me should benefit all! That is how I see it!
There are many ghosts at Whiteclay! They will remain there and in our hearts and in our minds until our grandchildren have become grandparents! We took all that the Lakota had for 113 years. It will take generations to give it back to them. But if we are to survive and to depend upon one another we should take care of one another. That is the way it used to be with us in Nebraska. That is how it will be again now that the flow of Whiteclay alcohol and the death it brought to so many has stopped.
We will celebrate today for a short minute and then we will go to Whiteclay to see what we can do to begin to give back and to mitigate the devastation we have caused there and among the Lakota. We will celebrate a short minute and then plan to gather in our churches to offer up prayers of Thanksgiving and to ask for forgiveness for all that we have knowingly allowed our brothers, our sisters, and our children at Pine Ridge to endure.