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Oglala Sioux tribal authorities seize 97 bottles of ‘bootlegged’ liquor in prom-night saturation patrols

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation voted in 2013 to allow alcohol, but reports in 2017 say authorities never enacted the vote, leaving it the last dry reservation in South Dakota.

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The Oglala Sioux Tribe's Department of Public Safety seized 97 bottles of vodka during a saturation patrol while area schools were celebrating prom.
Photo courtesy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety
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PINE RIDGE, S.D. — Authorities on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are calling attention to bootlegging issues after seizing 97 bottles of vodka during a prom night saturation patrol.

On the evening of Friday, April 29, officers with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety were conducting saturation patrols in and around the cities of Pine Ridge, Kyle and Wanblee in an effort to assist in the safety of prom celebrations taking place at Lakota Tech, Red Cloud, Little Wound and Crazy Horse Schools.

During the patrols, concerned citizens reported to dispatch that a vehicle was en route to the reservation transporting a large amount of alcohol.

Officers were able to intercept the vehicle and seize nearly 37 liters of alcohol, including 96, 375 milliliter bottles of 100-proof Tvarscki vodka as well as one 750 milliliter bottle of 60-proof Phillips Peppermint schnapps.

In a Facebook post announcing the seizure, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety thanked the public for their continued efforts and information that helps authorities combat “the bootlegging issue” the Reservations “continue[s] to fight.”

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Federal law bans the sale of alcohol on Native American reservations unless the tribal council allows it. Pine Ridge had legalized alcohol for two months in the 1970s, but the ban was quickly restored. An attempt to lift prohibition in 2004 had also failed.

Though the Reservation had been dry since 1832, tribal members voted in 2013 to allow alcohol on tribal lands by a 192-vote margin.

"Life will change now as we know it," an elated Larry Eagle Bull told the Associated Press in 2013. Eagle Bull was one of nine tribal council members who put the issue to a public vote. "This is a new era we're in. We've got to remember now we lived dry for 100 years and it was proven that prohibition didn't work. We're in new territory now."

Despite the vote, the Guardian reported in 2017 that no action was ever taken to implement the overturn of alcohol laws, leaving it the last dry reservation in the state.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe did not release any additional information regarding the suspect in Friday’s incident, including if an arrest was made or if charges were filed.

John Pettigrew, an investigator with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety, did not return a call requesting more information about the seizure or the enforcement of the Reservation’s 2013 vote.

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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