Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whiteclay, Nebraska — Forever?

“The more things change, the more they are the same,” Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French journalist and critic first said in his native language: “plus les choses changent plus elles sont les mêmes.”

Now it’s Whiteclay, Nebraska, exploiting Native Americans. Yet it's happened before in 1833. But unlike the forced removal of the Dakota Oyate (the Dakota Nation) and Winnebago to Crow Creek (still playing out in Whiteclay), small groups in the Cherokee nation relocated voluntarily (at first, anyway) when European settlers wanted them out.

In 1794, according to Perdue and Green, who coauthored “The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears,” one thousand people moved West under pressure from European settlers and their government. Then again, in 1810, one thousand more Cherokee went West to land in what is now Arkansas.  In 1819, two thousand more Cherokee merged with them (again, in voluntary cooperation).

“...the Cherokee, Perdue and Green said, "who went west before the ‘Treaty of New Echota’ often returned to there homeland in the East to visit family and friends and to reconnect to the land that formed the touchstone of their identity as Cherokee.”

But the clock was ticking.  By 1833, the incentives to move all Cherokee voluntarily, which included  “a good rifle, blanket, kettle and five pounds of tobacco” (offered in an 1828 treaty), had grown to shares of annuity payments the United States had withheld for three years — and other annuities from past and future treaties, according to Perdue and Green.

When offered these stipends (regular payments that were rightfully theirs), many declined the offer, and stayed home. However, in 1833, 900 people did decide to move, and waiting for them on their journey was good old Yankee know-how.

The approximately 900 who embarked in the spring of 1834 endured many trials,” Perdue and Green said.  “Even before they left the dock on flatboats the United States had provided, unscrupulous traders arrived on their own boats and moored on the riverbank opposite the agency.

From there they hawked ‘cakes and pies and fruit and cider and apple jack and whiskey’ in order to relieve the Cherokees of the annuity payments they had received.  The lieutenant appointed conductor of one of the detachments protested that the boats were the ‘nurseries and receptacles of idleness, drunkenness, and vice.’”  Or, as Jean-Baptiste would say,  the more things change, the more they are the same.

It is worth repeating that when the editor of the Sioux City Register, Dr. S.P. Yeomans, wrote in 1863 about the Dakota and Winnebago spoiling his favorite steamer, the Florence — when he wrote about the “dirty, ragged, lousy, beastly, nasty” ones — he wrote about the ancestors of the Whiteclay protesters, a people rightfully demanding respect and dignity in the face of unbridled greed.

When will it stop?

The Pine Ridge Reservation is a sovereign nation.   The Dakota Oyate has a homeland, as do the Winnebago. Watching people in Nebraska hide in plain sight of the solution is painful.

The documentary shared here is long, but details the problem well.  There is no easy answer unless Nebraskans revoke liquor licenses, bulldoze Whiteclay's booze parlors and promote a Farmer’s Market — or anything — grass. Only then will people rejoice: the scourge is dead!  A bounty once lost but now re-found.  The promise of America.


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