Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
"A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian," stated Lakota activist Debra White Plume at the Women's Day of Peace this past Sunday before some 200 people American Indians and non-Indians walked two miles from the Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge over to the border town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.
Women's Day of Peace Walk to Whiteclay, Nebraska
"A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian" is a concept I will admit I never thought about before Sunday, but have been thinking about it quite a bit since.
The word "dangerous" is a word that threw me when I first read it. Dangerous means to be feared, not necessarily negatively destructive. The word can be used in a positive fashion.
It took me back to American history where governmental officials would unscrupulously have barrels of whiskey dropped off at Indian villages where treaties were to be signed within days. The rationale was the Indians would get into the whiskey and get drunk, thereby allowing a much more easily swayed Indian who would affix his "X" on the treaty document that non-Indians had little intention of complying with anyway.
Nevertheless, a drunken Indian would sign it.
The opposite of being drunk is to be sober.
In society it is known that people think more clearly when they are sober. We know being drunk robs people of clarity of thinking. Being drunk impairs good judgment to even operate motor vehicles.
White Plume is correct in her statement: "A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian." Governmental officials knew in treaty making days that a sober Indian was far too dangerous to deal with than a drunken Indian.
White Plume's full statement is telling:
“A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian. We have to send a message to Nebraska and its citizens that we are not going to tolerate business as usual. This is the Women's Day of Peace but that peace will soon be over”.
Whiteclay, Nebraska today represents the barrels of whiskey dropped during treating-signing week. Whiteclay exists as a means to keep the American Indian drunk. Whiteclay provides for an impaired American Indian that becomes less dangerous because of drunkenness. Therefore, less dangerous to the degree the drunken Indian becomes voiceless and powerless. Who listens to anyone drunk?
Imagine this: A completely sober American Indian community with powerful voices. Powerful voices who show up in the halls of state capitols or in Washington DC in the halls of Congress to work on legislation and laws that get American Indian people employment, healthcare, education and housing.
Whiteclay, Nebraska is border town with a population of 14 sells over four million cans of beer annually. Whiteclay sells alcoholic beverages to a population that crosses over from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which forbids the sale of alcohol on its homeland because of the ill effects of alcohol.
White Plume was among the women who protested the sale of alcohol. Some carried signs that read: "Say no to liquid genocide." Mothers, who are sick and tired of losing their young to alcohol, marched.
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updated 5:50 pm edt, posted August 30, 2012 10:40 am edt