Alcohol sales protest sends mixed message

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Protestors stand outside the Eagle Butte Package Liquor Store on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

Protestors stand outside the Eagle Butte Package Liquor Store on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

The influx of Salazar cash highlighted issues of jurisdictional clash between the state municipality of Eagle Butte and members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Protestors brought a mixed bag of claims to the street in front of the City of Eagle Butte Liquor Store on May 16.

“Our thing isn’t to tell people to stop drinking, because we know its an addiction, and they’re going to keep on doing it and we can’t physically be at all these liquor establishments. The reason why we are trying to stop sales at City Package Liquor is because they’re annexing the tribe’s land and they’re gaining more jurisdiction because they want growth for the city,” said Robin Lebeau, member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and CRST District 5 representative for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council. [Video]

District 5 includes portions of the City of Eagle Butte city limits.

While many reasons for the action were brought to the public by Lakota Advocates, the main message of the action clearly directed those purchasing alcohol to take their business away from the City of Eagle Butte’s Package Liquor Store.

“You have every right to protest, but you don’t have a right to keep people from going in,” said City of Eagle Butte Mayor Stephanie Davidson to protestors on Wednesday.

In an interview with the West River Eagle, CRST-member Davidson said that the protestors had tried to block the door to the establishment at one point Monday morning.

“If its going to be an alcohol thing, don’t target us, but it isn’t. It goes back to the city-tribe issue,” said Davidson.

Issues of recent annexations by the city, both by resolution and by petition, were one of the reasons given by protestors for the boycott of the city liquor store.

A city annexation by resolution affecting land in north Eagle Butte brought some of the same protestors out last July, as well, but according to City of Eagle Butte Finance Office Sheila Ganje, no petitions to take that annexation to a vote by city residents and those affected by the annexation was filed with the city.

Another issue raised by protesters was that of taxation.

Eagle Butte City Police Officer Kiel Lemke makes an arrest along with a CRST Tribal Officer. A container of alcohol was dumped at the site. Photo by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

Eagle Butte City Police Officer Kiel Lemke makes an arrest along with a CRST Tribal Officer. A container of alcohol was dumped at the site across the street from the liquor store, behind the City of Eagle Butte office. Photo by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

Protestors directed people approaching the Package Liquor Store to take their Salazar per-cap money to support Mni Mart, owned by Donna Clausen, a member of CRST.

Mni Mart is a convenience store located outside the edge of the City of Eagle Butte municipal limits on land owned by Clausen.

“They aren’t picketing me, I pay my taxes,” said Clausen. “If you don’t pay your taxes you don’t get a truck.”

Though Mni Mart doesn’t sell hard liquor, just beer sales, Clausen was adamant that she wouldn’t put up with protestors against alcohol on her land.

Ganje also stated that the City of Eagle Butte collects various taxes on alcohol by the state and tribe and regularly pays those taxes.

An employee of the CRST Revenue Office verified that the City of Eagle Butte is up to date on all tax payments to the tribe.

With feelings running high on issues of jurisdiction, the message wasn’t always clear to those greeted by the protestors.

“Am I doing something wrong?” a city liquor store patron asked a protestor.

“No. We just care about you,” she replied.

Their actions were a new take on the protesting of an alcohol establishment frequented by tribal members.

While some say the City of Eagle Butte is like that of the hotly contested White Clay, NE, where alcohol sales are predominantly sold to tribal members of Pine Ridge who walk across the border to the town, the social issue of alcoholism seemed to be on the back burner during Wednesday’s protest.

“We don’t serve intoxicated people,” said Davidson. “Moderation is best.”

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