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Volunteers stage beer blockade outside Pine Ridge

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WHITECLAY, Neb. (AP) - Volunteers staged another blockade aimed at keeping beer out of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcoholism is rampant. This time, tribal police cooperated.

A year ago, tribal police shut down a similar blockade and arrested three organizers who refused to leave.

The volunteer members of the blockade stopped cars June 28 and asked drivers if they had alcohol. Then Pine Ridge tribal police stationed down the road confiscated any alcohol brought onto the reservation and ticketed violators.

Alcoholism is rampant on the reservation, which bans alcohol, and the volunteers had hoped the blockade would help curtail bootlegging. Four stores in Whiteclay, a village just outside the 16,500-member reservation, sell about 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly to American Indians.

The blockade was organized by Nebraskans for Peace and members of the Strong Heart Civil Rights movement based in Pine Ridge.

Duane Martin Sr., a leader in Strong Heart, said many drivers cooperated with the blockade.

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''Our main objective is to keep alcohol and drugs off the reservation,'' Martin said. ''It's epidemic, it's killing our people at an alarming rate.''

Martin said he'd like Nebraska law enforcement to help with the effort.

''This is the first day we've gotten cooperation from tribal police,'' he said. ''I have no support from the state of Nebraska.''

But Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. Bryan Tuma said there isn't much his officers can do if the beer is sold legally.

Tuma said after a legal sale is made, the patrol doesn't have jurisdiction to stop people if they carry the alcohol across the state line into the reservation.

''We cannot randomly stop vehicles. If there are no problems with point of sale in Nebraska, there is very little we can do.''

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