It's a place that has made national headlines for selling 11,000 cans of beer daily, mainly to the residents within walking distance on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It's a place that has only 14 residents but boasts four liquor stores. It's also a place that LaMere plans to bring up with President-elect Barack Obama. LeMere is an executive member of the Democratic National Committee.
"When I'm sitting across from the president of the United States, don't you think that I'm gonna bring up Whiteclay?" he said here at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Film director Mark Vasina, Winnebago, unveiled his documentary, "The Battle for Whiteclay," Nov. 15 to an audience of about 20 people at the university. The movie explores LaMere's efforts to engage Nebraskans in the issue he said "has become very much an ‘out of sight, out of mind' situation."
In one march from Pine Ridge to Whiteclay, nine Native people, including LaMere, were arrested for crossing a line that the Nebraska State Highway Patrol swat team told them not to cross. They were loaded onto a bus and taken to jail. Just as powerful is a moment in the movie following the testimony of several people who live in Sheridan County, Neb. The apathy and underlying racism are devastating.
Keeping the liquor stores in Whiteclay, rather than closing them down and making it more difficult for people in Pine Ridge to get the alcohol that is illegal on their reservation, they enjoy the security of knowing that the problem of alcoholism, violence and traffic of Native people is far from their homes. Maintaining convenient access to alcohol in Whiteclay—in a corner of Sheridan County far from the homes of most residents—is masked under the guise of concern for lawful distribution and the rights of the store owners.
While I tire of seeing movies that beat to death the same woes in Indian Country, this movie went a step beyond that. It showed someone doing something about it. And that someone wasn't just a good-hearted outsider. It was a Native person, albeit one from a different state.
In this movie, LaMere's actions inspire.