by Jim Devescraft
An Epidemic of Despair
Since our inception, One Spirit has been focused first on providing natural, healthy food to the Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the most poverty-stricken places in the country.
Here, the lack of proper nutrition and massive unemployment have led to a sense of despair that leads to unhealthy life choices that create epidemic levels of diabetes, and more ominously, alcoholism. These threaten the very existence of the Lakota and prolong the persecution of this noble native people that began in the nineteen century and continues unabated.
Photo credit: Wikipedia (CC0) 1.0 Nebraska Highway 87 forms the main street of Whiteclay
Skid Row of the Plains
Ground Zero for this deadly situation is the tiny hamlet of Whiteclay, Nebraska. With a population of about twelve permanent residents, this "town" has been the home of four liquor stores, one within 200 yards of the Pine Ridge Reservation border that sold literally millions of cans of beer annually to Lakota who, lacking hope, had succumbed to alcoholism. Known as the "skid row of the plains", Whiteclay has been the focus of numerous efforts by Lakota activists to stop the exploitation and subjugation of the Lakota by greedy whites out for the almighty dollar at any price.
Earlier this year, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission finally heard the outcry from Lakota activists (some of whom were murdered in the past) and denied the renewal of the licenses for the four stores. After a county district judge threw out the ruling, the Nebraska Attorney General appealed, and the case is pending. While it is encouraging that people of good will are finally coming to the realization that the proximity of the four stores to the reservation is a crucial factor in the ongoing epidemic of alcoholism among the Lakota, the business interests and greed on the part of some are bringing the issue of this "genocide by alcohol" to a climax.
Camp Whiteclay Justice
Noted Lakota artist Joel Pulliam began ten weeks ago to gather supporters to establish Camp Whiteclay Justice as a proactive peace camp to raise awareness about the urgent need to keep alcohol sales out of Whiteclay. The camp has been financed solely by personal donations and proceeds from sales of some of Joel's art works. He notes that the camp also exists for helping to regain "the identity of being Lakota, that was stolen from our ancestors. We recognize our relatives, over the past 113 years, whose lives were lost in Whiteclay---the uninvestigated, unsolved murders."
From August 22-29, the group at Camp Whiteclay Justice, with meager financial support but boundless spirit, is organizing a week of awareness education and peaceful proactive demonstration to try and keep the licenses suspended and keep sales of alcohol to people who so clearly should not be taken advantage of banned in Whiteclay forever.
While our focus at One Spirit remains the nutritional needs of as many Lakota as we can help, that includes these brave souls at Camp Whiteclay Justice. Besides food support, they also have other expenses related to hosting a larger event with no funding in sight.
We are asking our wonderful and loyal One Spirit family to help us support this cause. During the coming week the food program, in addition to providing for families, will also be helping the group at Whiteclay.
From now on, i. e. August 21st, 2017 until September 4th, 2017 people who make donations to One Spirit, no matter for which one of our projects, will be entered into a drawing for one original of Joel's paintings. Thank you in advance for your compassion: it seems like there are so many worthy causes and objectives to help the Lakota help themselves, but we hope you will consider this one of special interest.
Even your positive thoughts sent out to the Lakota of Camp Whiteclay Justice will be beneficial, to say nothing of any donation you can contribute.
Thank you so much for your support of One Spirit and helping the Lakota attain sustainability and pride.
Meet Joel Pulliam:
In April last year, Joel Pulliam’s ledger art was featured on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. According to the Smithsonian, ledger art was “first developed in the 1860s by Plains Indian artists who drew or painted pictoral narratives on paper from accounting ledger books.”
In an article in The Lakota Country Times last year, Joel was quoted about his use of “ledger art.”
"I see it as a traditional art form and to keep it historically correct is something I value. I think it is something the original artists intended," said Pulliam. "They wanted to preserve the knowledge. They didn't realize the impact their work would have down the road and I hold that sacred. I think it is important to keep historical knowledge and maintain historical accuracy."
Joel has also been featured at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New York and is now active in Camp White Clay Justice, an initiative that is designed to keep the liquor stores of White Clay closed.