Amidst protests at Whiteclay, the deeper issue of alcoholism eme - kotanow.com- Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Amidst protests at Whiteclay, the deeper issue of alcoholism emerges

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Activists are increasing protests on the sale of alcohol to the people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

With acts of violence mounting in the border town of Whiteclay Jessica Leicht took a trip to the epicenter of it all, to see what's fueling the protesters fire.

"If we want to be alcoholics, we're alcoholics," Jason Sun Bear said.

Alcohol is banned on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

However alcohol sales in the unincorporated town of Whiteclay are through the roof.

"We started out our camp here as just a four day camp to symbolize that we're dedicated to ending alcohol sales," Life giver to Oglala Nation, Olowan Martinez said.

Martinez says the disease of alcoholism hits very close to home.

"One of the main reasons why my fight is so strong is because my mother, she used to hang out on these streets. No matter what we did we couldn't get her to come home or stay home, it was so hard," Martinez said.

She says their protesting isn't against any of the native Americans who choose to live on Whiteclay's main street, because they've made their own choice as adults.

"We come down here to do our own thing you know, I live my life and my brother lives his life," Sun Bear said.  

"There's been numerous programs, government and tribal that have attempted to help our relatives overcome the addiction to alcoholism. But it's a mental illness, a mental disease that needs strong attention," Martinez said.

In a town of at least 14 people, Whiteclay sells 13,000 cans of beer a day.

"While their families are living luxurious and happy, our homes are unhealthy and miserable and mostly all of it has to do with alcohol," Martinez said.

Beginning this month, protesters have turned their anger to the beer distributors.

In back to back weeks they have slashed the tires and threatened the drivers of the trucks.

But Olowan Martinez says the talk of violence going on all over isn't aimed towards people, it's aimed at ending the sale of alcohol and the prevention of people bringing it back onto the reservation.

"A very loud message was sent to the distributor and I'm sure he's heard us. I'm sure he's heard we don't want his poison here anymore," Martinez said.

But the increased acts of violence haven't been just towards outsiders.

Jason Sun Bear has seen people attacked because they are walking home to Pine Ridge with alcohol.

"They come down here with baseball bats and they drive by, cruise around and rev up their engines and cuss at us," Sun Bear said.

Martinez says she hopes everyone can come together to get to the deeper root of the alcoholism that's plaguing the Oglala Nation.

"It's time that we unite and quite drawing the lines that this government has showed us how to draw. We need to be free thinkers and decide for yourself, you know that it's just time, come on now its 100 years too late," Martinez said.

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