The United States government first took an antagonistic stance towards the Native American tribes. While it is quite fashionable today to paint such actions as Red Cloud War, the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Trail of Tears as genocidal, racist policies, it is important to remember that Native Americas were such a formidable military opponent that the government had been routinely flat-out defeated in many conflicts during the Indian Wars period of the late 1800s. In many cases, both sides had legitimate claims to the land they were seeking, and this led to brutal warfare.

 

But slowly, the last of the true Native warrior tribes, such as the Apache, Comanche and Lakota were militarily defeated and forced onto reservations. This marked a shift in the U.S. government’s policy of treating Natives as insurgents to a more paternalistic role. It was during the late 1800s, when this paternalism became the prevailing attitude towards Native tribes, that the current system of reservations began being established all across the country.

 

One of those was the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation, taking up much of Southeastern South Dakota. The paternalistic attitudes then prevalent lead those who chartered the reservation to establish a total prohibition on alcohol sales, due to a widespread perception that Natives were more prone to alcoholism than other groups.

 

But this was quickly circumvented, with the establishment of Whiteclay, Nebraska, just over the Nebraska state line. For 135 years, Whiteclay’s sole purpose was the sale of alcohol to Natives. On May 1, Whiteclay’s beer stores were closed. But one question remains. Has any of this actually helped Native Americans?

 

Categories: Native American, Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux Reservation

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