January 14, 2010

Suing beer sellers for treaty violation

Native activists protesting "bad man" clause violation Friday in Whiteclay

By Mary GarriganA small group of Native American activists will march into Whiteclay, Neb., at 1 p.m. today to present a lawsuit they plan to file accusing four Whiteclay beer sellers and a Christian ministry of violating the "bad man" clause of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Duane Martin Sr. of the Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement and the Black Hills Sioux Treaty Council say they will file a complaint in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Neb., next week naming four Whiteclay beer sellers: Mike's Pioneer Liquor, State Line Inn, Arrow Head Inn and Jumping Eagle Inn, and the Christian nonprofit 555 Whiteclay, which operates a soup kitchen and other ministries in Whiteclay.
I wouldn't give this lawsuit much chance of success, but there's this:The proposed lawsuit, which Martin promises to file next week in Lincoln, asks the federal government to stop those establishments from doing business under Article 1 of the 1868 treaty between the Sioux nation and the U.S. government. The five entities are guilty of bringing "sickness and death to the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation." It also calls on the state of Nebraska to not allow alcohol sales within a "buffer zone" between the two states.

The "bad man" legal argument was successfully used by Lavetta Elk, another Oglala Sioux, in a lawsuit alleging that a U.S. Army recruiter had violated the "bad man" clause when he sexually molested her while transporting her to a military recruiting appointment. Elk recently won a $650,000 settlement that left intact a federal judge's ruling that said the treaty language requires the government to reimburse Sioux tribe members who are injured by "any wrong" done by "bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States."
Comment:  I'm amazed that a lawsuit based on the Fort Laramie treaty actually succeeded. Nice to know our judicial system doesn't totally ignore the "supreme law of the land."

This reminds me of a line from Archie's Grand Opening--All in the Family's seventh episode of its eighth season (airdate: 10/30/77). Archie Bunker has just reopened Kelcy's Bar as Archie's Place and was serving his first customers. Michael says they should cut off one bar patron who is already drunk. Archie asks if the man is driving home and if he's an Indian. The answers are no, so Archie says to serve him.

For more on Whiteclay, see Whiteclay Needs Creative Thinking and Whiteclay = Genocide?


Kat said...

I don't understand... Why was the treaty relevant in the molesting case? I mean, this is a crime no matter what. Good that she won though!!!

Whiteclay is also in this article: "Obama's Indian problem".

Rob said...

I presume the woman invoked the treaty's "bad man" clause because she couldn't get justice any other way. I.e., because the evidence wasn't conclusive enough to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Kat said...

@ Rob: "because the evidence wasn't conclusive enough to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt."

I hope you don't mean that as a general rule... Misogyny comes into play usually in the justice system as well, given the 5% rate...

Rob said...

I was speculating about her particular case, not generalizing. In her particular case, I'm guessing the evidence wasn't conclusive enough to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Misogyny--e.g., taking his word over hers--may have played a role. But whatever the reason, she didn't win her case and had to rely on the treaty's "bad man" clause.

Rob said...

No need to speculate any longer. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled against the government and for Lavetta Elk in the following case:


When Staff Sgt. Joseph Kopf, an Army recruiter, was supposedly taking Elk, then 19, to a military entrance processing center in 2003, he instead stopped in a remote area of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and kissed her and touched her breasts against her will, according to court records.

A military proceeding determined Kopf had committed indecent assault against Elk, and he was reduced in rank and removed from recruiting duties, according to court documents.

In responding to the lawsuit, the government acknowledged that Kopf had assaulted Elk. However, the government argued Elk was entitled only to damages for her actual expenses for treatment.

Kat said...

"The government argued Elk was entitled only to damages for her actual expenses for treatment."

That's just gross.