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Tom Poor Bear's Vigil For Justice

(NOTE: The following release has been forwarded to Scoop from four apparently different sources today all of whom wanted to draw it to the attention of the President...

Two of the referral notes.

1. "I was asked by my friends in America to fdw this web page to you since American President Bill Clinton will be here for APEC. Cheers

2. "Bill Clinton hasn't taken care the Indian people in America!!FYI)

Official "Camp Justice" Update, which is authorized to be used as a News Article, Special Report, Guest Editorial and to be posted on all Camp Justice Web sites and to be submitted to media and supporters immediately. Approved by: Tom Poor Bear , Camp Justice Leader 605-867-5821


Native Leaders continue their vigil for Justice

Tom Poor Bear stood proud and with honor as he addressed the supporters of "Camp Justice," an encampment of tipis and tents just outside the Nebraska/Pine Ridge border town of Whiteclay. Looking straight out into the eyes of those before him, Tom took a long, deep, thoughtful breath. "We are all Camp Justice," he said, looking at each individual as he spoke. "Anyone who has supported us, in any way, is a part of Camp Justice. We have drawn the line here; this is where we need to stand strong to see justice prevail in the investigations of Ron and Wally's and the other unsolved murders."

Tom organized "Camp Justice" and the weekly "March for Justice" walks to draw attention to the unsolved murders of Wally Black Elk and Ronnie Hard Heart, Tom's brother and cousin. These two Lakota men were found dead, brutally beaten and mutilated a few feet from the Nebraska/South Dakota border. Today, two full months from the discovery of their bodies, no one, not family members, not friends, not Tribal Council, not anyone, has been granted the privilege of knowing the status of the investigation other than autopsy reports, and being told there are several suspects.

Nebraska and South Dakota Law Enforcement, Tribal Law Officials, and the FBI as well, have all been involved in the case, yet the families and friends know nothing. Most tragically, this is not the only case in question.

"Here," said Tom, "is where the Lakota people are addressing the issues that are affecting our families, our people and our nation, making us suffer. We are not Sioux, which means cut throat, we are Lakota, known in the old days for placing our children, elders and community first, above all. This has not changed, and here is where we have to demand that America, our Community Leaders, and our Officials, take a stand and show us whether they are for the people here, or against us."

Tom stands strong, adamant that there be no violence, adamant that all battles be won spiritually, legally and justly. To Civil and Human rights supporters, he stands for hope in the face of adversity; he is a man against a mountain, a mountain that has been forming for hundreds of years. Tom has not had time to morn the deaths of his brother and his cousin, yet has united countless individuals in challenging justice to prevail, at the risk of his own safety, at the risk of his own arrest.

On the 11th weekend march to White Clay on September 4th, 1999 supporters stayed in White Clay for 3-4 hours. Liquor establishments there usually have closed down during the rally to show respect for murder victims and marchers. This week was different, two bars were open. Frustration ran high as the leaders let people know that they are accusing the 22 people living and working in the ugly run-down, no toilets available town of White Clay, Nebraska, of using, abusing, exploiting, promoting teen prostitution and possibly being involved in the most recent unsolved murders.

Tom keeps telling those against him there, that it is his responsibility as the Sargent at Arms for the Oglala Lakota Nation, and as a father, Community Leader and Wounded Knee Vet, he has to be there to stand for the Human and Civil rights of the Lakota people. He accuses the bar owners and town of living off our peoples alcohol sickness and giving nothing back in return...not even money for programs to help our people and community heal from the impact and deaths caused by their sickness.

First Tom approached Pioneer Circle Bar and asked the owner to shut down out of respect. The owner reluctancy agreed. Then Tom walked across the street and asked the owner of the Arrowhead Inn, well known to many of our people there as "Dirty Lyle's" Bar, to close as well. Tom asked him four times and four times the man stated he would not shut down. This angered Tom because it has been alleged that this bar has been promoting teen prostitution.

Tom showed the bar owner of Arrowhead Treaty documents representing legal commitments from the people of the United States of America. The federal documents provided proof that White Clay belongs to the Oglala Lakota nation by treaty. He showed where there are promises in these documents that there were to be no liquor establishments within 20 miles of reservation boarders.

The bar owner called upon the law enforcement officials and Tom showed them the legal documents as well and asked them as United States Citizens to uphold and enforce the treaties, after all, it is written in the treaties that the Lakota Nation shall be under special protection of the people of the United States of America. The bar owner could not produce the deed he claimed superceded the Lakota treaty documents Tom carried into White Clay.

The Nebraska and Sheridan county officials were at a standoff. They begged Tom to return to Pine Ridge and said they did not want to arrest him, and that they respected him. Tom said that as representatives of the United States of America that they should protect our people from White Clay by letting us take what is rightfully ours, or by shutting it down until the land dispute was settled. The bar owner had Tom arrested for trespassing and he spent several hours in jail before his supporters could raise $1,500 bond requirement, $150 in cash.

During the 7th weekend of protest, on Sunday, August 8th "Colonel Tom" Nesbitt representing the Nebraska law enforcement told Tom that he and other officials wanted to see White Clay shut down because of all the trouble it causes them, but their hands were tied legally. Under Colonel Tom’s watch in White Clay, over one hundred law officials and riot police present, stayed away from the protesters, some staying in several large buses nearby. We only saw a few snipers that day.

Colonel Tom allowed supporters to occupy and have lunch in the middle of town that Sunday. The group wanted to stay, but after three hours Colonel Tom came to the group and it was negotiated between all there that out of respect for people in cars backed up waiting to enter Pine Ridge for the annual Pow-Wow there, that the group would move from the center of White Clay streets and law officials would setup road checks going into Pine Ridge. Colonel Tom assured us that he would work on the many issues that supporters of Camp Justice have raised. But now Nebraska law officials are saying that the main complaints are not within their jurisdiction.

Are the officials and people who hold power over the Lakota showing us where they stand in regards to upholding their American ancestors promises and commitments of the past? It seems they are saying that our treaties are not worth the paper they are printed on. Supporters wonder if the rest of America feels the same way. Supporters are Outraged at the latest disrespect and arrogance against Lakota people.

Written By: Sandra Matchen - (Wanbli Mani) -Sicangu Lakota, Native American Advocate, 970-241-4711 Rosebud Sioux Tribal Member, P.O. Box 1150, Clifton CO 81520-1150 Natasha Laflin representing Friends for Native American Communities Mike Wicks & Kathy Morning Star representing American Indian Cultural Support Approved for release by; Tom Poor Bear organizer/leader of Camp Justice

Mike Wicks CAMP JUSTICE internet/email Liason

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