Criminalize Alcohol Near Sacred Native Sites

State of South Dakota House Bill NO. 1233

This bill will stop the granting of alcoholic beverage licenses within 4 miles of outside boundary of Bear Butte, a site held sacred by plains Indians of many tribes.

In an article published in the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Nation newspaper (Sota) there are the words: "Blatant disregard for the spiritual beliefs and ceremonies of Native People and the sacredness of this mountain is evidenced by the increased presence of bars, clubs, strobe lights, campgrounds that sell alcohol and a proposed stadium."

Protecting sacred Native American sites from being desecrated by criminalizing the establishment of bars and liquor stores near them is an initiative that I am fully in support of.

On my website and in a number of articles of mine there are the words: "One of the reasons why the current name for the 'Rum River' is inappropriate is because, as stated in a book published by the Minnesota Historical Society", "rum, which brought misery and ruin, as Du Luth observed of brandy, to many of the Indians".

And the following words are also on my website and in a number of articles of mine.

"I believe that by drawing attention to the Rum River name change issue 'white guilt' will increase, because of a heightened awareness of the catastrophic consequences caused by white settlers introducing and selling alcohol to Native Americans; and that this increase of 'white guilt' will, in a lot of ways, cause the people of the dominant culture to offer all Native Americans their long over due restitution justice. Especially when it comes to making amends to help Native Americans to free themselves from the plague of alcoholism."

The following excepts are from an October 18, 2006 article that was published in the STAR Midweek, an Isanti County Newspaper, distributed in Cambridge * Braham * Isanti * North Branch * Rush City * Harri


One man feels that the name of the Rum River is a desecration of the Dakota Indian's sacred sites, as well as a reminder of the liquor that brought misery to them. He suggests it once again be called by what the Dakota referred to it as: Spirit River.

By Tesha M. Christensen

Thomas Dahlheimer isn't the first person to think the name of the Rum River should be changed.

During Prohibition there was a movement to change the name by those who saw the addictive and harmful nature of rum upon society.

Looking back across history, Dahlheimer sees the damage rum has caused the native Americans. In exchange for rum, they signed away their lands and allowed themselves to be disconnected from what they valued.

"Rum brought misery and ruin to many of the Indians," he observed.

It was the same in Africa, he pointed out. There tribal leaders sold off their peoples as salves because they were addicted to liquor.

"Rum is like a genocidal weapon," he remarked.

A Catholic social activist, Dahlheimer sees many other things he'd like to see changed. He's vocally against Native American-run casinos. He's pushing for Mille Lacs County to become a dry county, and then he intends to follow the river down to Sherburne, Isanti and Anoka counties lobbying for the change to dry.

Dahlheimer sees the current United States policy of requiring all immigrants to conform to U.S. culture. He questions why the European immigrants didn't assimilate into the Native American culture and language.


Three of my published Mille Lacs Messenger letters to the editor are related to the "rum brought misery and ruin to many of the Indians" reason why I am trying to change the "Rum" River name. These three letters to the editor are presented below. I am trying to build a coalition to help me establish four dry (alcohol free) counties - the four counties located on the Wakan/"Rum" River corridor. I want to protect this sacred river or sacred Native American site by criminalizing the sells of alcoholic beverages in these counties.

On November 16, 2005, the following letter to the editor was published in the Mille Lacs Messenger.

Why no outrage?

By Thomas Dahlheimer

In a Oct. 31, Saint Paul Pioneer Press letter to the editor, it readers were informed that 2,000 U.S. combatants had been killed in Iraqi since the war began and that 40,000 U.S. citizens had been killed by drunk drivers in that same period of time.

Are the vast majority of U.S. Christians outraged by this large number of people being killed by drunk drivers and engaging in social activism to stop this atrocity? No, they are not. Why are they not outraged and then doing something to stop this atrocity?

When the Star and Tribune asked our state's religious leaders to answer the question: "Where is religious outrage for the poor?", Bishop Peter Rogness, a Lutheran Bishop, answered the question. He wrote:

"We are awash in a culture of individualism, with powerful forces at work that bombard us with the message to take care of our own needs as much as we want". And before this question was asked by the Star and Tribune, Pope John Paul II expressing his opinion on this question. He once said, when referring to a popular expression of mainline U.S. denominational Christianity, the U.S. Catholic Church, "it is hypnotized by materialism, teetering before a soulless vision of the world."

"Hypnotized by materialism", or brainwashed by "powerful forces" that make people selfish and apathetic is the answer to why most U.S. Christians are not outraged for the poor, nor for the large number of U.S. citizens killed by drunk drivers every year.

And why is their no outrage and social activism by the majority of U.S. Christians for the 108,000 U.S. citizens who die every year from alcohol abuse? And why is their no outrage and social activism by the majority of U.S. Christians for the 440,000 U.S. citizens who die every year from tobacco abuse?

In a recent edition of the Mille Lacs Messenger, there was an article about a movement in Mille Lacs County to help curb alcohol and drug abuse. In the article, it was mentioned that alcohol and tobacco are "gateway" substances. I would like to see the Pastors of Christian Churches in Mille Lacs County encouraging their congregations to start up social concerns groups that would work to not only make Mille Lacs County a dry county but also work to influence legislators to make the addictive and dangerous "gateway" substances (alcohol and tobacco) illegal to produce, sell or use.

Continuing on with a radically hypocritical (sinful) double standard associated with the approval of the legalization of two very dangerous and harmful "gateway" substances (alcohol and tobacco) and the disapproval of the legalization of other substances is not going to do anything but make the horrendous substance abuse epidemic and related social atrocities situation even worse.


On January 25, 2006, the following letter to the editor of mine was published in the Mille Lacs Messenger.

Address Hypocritical

By Thomas Dahlheimer

In response to statements made by the Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Melane Benjamin during the State of the Band address, statements published in a January 18, 2006 Messenger article, To Stop the devastation of the Mille Lacs "hurricane", I would like to express that I believe that they are shot through with hypocrisy and do nothing to help resolve the problems that she and other Bands leaders are trying to resolve.

During the State of the Band address, Chief Executive Benjamin said, "The responsibility lays with us as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to get our children involved in our culture. If we help our youth learn our traditions. If we help them take pride in their Anishinabe identity, they won't be so quick to look for themselves in drugs and alcohol." And Benjamin also said, "I want to send a message to the people selling drugs that they can't do it here."

As long as the Band sells addictive and harmful produces, such as gambling, tobacco and alcohol - and by doing so, promotes the antitheses of Anishinabe culture, Benjamin's mentioned above statements are not going to be taken seriously by Band members who are selling other addictive produces.

In a recent letter to the Messenger, I tried to influence Mille Lacs County leaders to help me establishment of a dry (alcohol free) county, but the leaders of the Mille Lacs Band have not given me any assistance with this initiative of mine.

Mille Lacs Band leaders say they are trying to stop the alcohol abuse "hurricane" devastating their people, but they have not given their support for my effort to establish a dry Mille Lacs County and by doing so help their people and other Native Americans to free themselves from the perpetual "hurricane" of alcoholism.

Therefore, I believe that this years State of the Band address was a hypocritical blunder that is going to cause more suffering and grief for both Band members as well as for many other people living in and visiting Mille Lacs County. It seems to me that blatant hypocrisy was the theme of this years State of the Band address.


In a Mille Lacs Messenger letter to the editor - a letter that was published on September 27, 2006 - I made the following statements.

Because of what I have heard from prominent members of the Mille Lacs Band I believe that the band's leaders believe that most of the racism against their Indian community is brewed in our county's bars. An Isle council member said that he believed that the primary cause of the racist incident that occurred during this year's Isle parade was due to the consumption of alcohol in the Isle municipal bar. And in a Mille Lacs Messenger newspaper article, subtitled: "300 gather to note the toll by alcohol abuse", Melvin Eagle, a prominent member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is quoted as saying: "Alcoholism is not our traditional way. We need to try to pull together and away from alcohol because it is destroying our people." But the Mille Lacs Band has still not given its support for my effort to bring about a dry (alcohol free) Mille Lacs County.

In a recent letter to the Messenger, I tried to influence Mille Lacs County leaders to help me establishment a dry county. However, the leaders of the Mille Lacs Band as well as other leaders of our county have not given me any assistance with this initiative of mine. And now because of white racial hatred - brewed in a bar - our county is now receiving a lot of negative publicity that justifiably criticizes our county for being a white racist county that does not showing due respect for Americans Indians.

During prohibition there was a movement to change the name of the Rum River. At the time, a lot of people did not want rivers and other geographic places to have names that were advertisements for alcoholic beverages, or addictive products that they considered harmful to society. And this is one reason why I am spearheading the movement to change the name of the Rum River. The non-Indian leaders of our county should be supporting the effort to change the name of the Rum River for this reason as well as for other reasons. Their lack of support is another example of racism in our county.

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