updated 6/28/2007 1:21:08 PM ET 2007-06-28T17:21:08

A booze ban hasn't kept alcohol off Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcoholism is rampant, but some tribal members hope a road blockade might curtail bootlegging.

Beginning Thursday afternoon, they plan to stop all vehicles headed to Pine Ridge from Whiteclay, Neb., a village 200 feet outside the reservation where four stores sell about 4 million of cans of beer a year, mostly to American Indians.

If the occupants acknowledge having alcohol or it's visible, roadblock volunteers plan to confiscate it and pour it out.

"If they're clean, they go. Have a nice day," said Duane Martin of the reservation's Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement, which is organizing the blockade.

The group attempted a similar blockade last year, but it was abandoned when the tribal police chief said it would be illegal and dangerous. As of late Thursday morning, the tribal chairman and police chief had not decided whether to allow the blockade, acting tribal police Capt. Wilmer Youngman said.

Blockade organizers have the support of Oliver Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Martin said the authority of the tribe's traditional leader trumps that of the tribal government, but he was still hoping for assistance from tribal police in cases where vehicle stops lead to angry confrontations.

Youngman, however, said police authority is limited. "We can't even search vehicles" without having probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, he said.

The stores have been a source of tension for years, and tribal members have tried to stop alcohol sales in Whiteclay through the courts, the county and the state licensing board.

'I'm tired of my people dying'
Beer cans litter roads on the 16,500-member reservation and the streets of Whiteclay, a village of roughly a dozen people. People loiter outside the stores. Some try to trade electronics and other things for beer.

"I'm tired of my people dying. You've got 18-, 19-year-olds trading alcohol for sex," Martin said.

This year, the plan is to set up farther inside the reservation border and stop every vehicle. Last year the plan had been to have volunteers stationed in Whiteclay use radios to tell people which cars to stop.

Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal government officials did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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