Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian

Industry: Non-Profit

Motto: “The Documentary that changed the face of Whiteclay.”

Platforms used: Facebook & Squarespace

Project Start: February 2019


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Overall Results

  • For Q1 & Q2, Complete interiors was able to reach an increase of over $80,000 in volume and $28,000 in profit, while their overall investment was under $5,000.

Facebook ($2,080 spent)

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About the Film

Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian is a documentary that chronicles the lives of four Lakota men living on the streets of Whiteclay, Nebraska, in the Summer 2013. Whiteclay was an unincorporated town with 12 residents and four beer stores that were selling 3.5 + million cans of beer per year, primarily to the residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Pine Ridge was a dry reservation in South Dakota, located less than 300 yards from the unincorporated town of Whiteclay.

Over the next three years, the documentary would be screened throughout the United States, from Stanford University to Georgetown University, and in recovery film festivals in New York City, San Francisco, and Cape Town, South Africa. Native American activist Frank LaMere and John Maisch attended many of these screenings. All of these events were important, but none more so than those that occurred on university campuses and churches across the State of Nebraska. The film would never be nominated for any cinematic awards, but it helped stir the hearts of Nebraskans to finally act.

On April 19, 2017, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted unanimously to deny the renewal of all four beer licenses in Whiteclay. By sharing their struggles with addiction, these four Lakota men introduced the world to the impact that these exploitative beer sales were having on the families of those who lived in Pine Ridge.


The Men Behind the Film

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John A. Maisch

John A. Maisch grew up five hours from Whiteclay, but he had to move to Oklahoma, graduate from Tulsa Law School, and work as that state’s liquor prosecutor in order to learn about the devastating impact Whiteclay’s beer sales were having on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In the Summer 2013, Maisch decided to conduct video interviews of four Lakota men who had left their homes in Pine Ridge in order to drink beer on the streets of Whiteclay. When he returned two months later, Maisch was surprised to find that all four men had returned to the reservation and were attempting to become sober. These men’s stories became the basis for his documentary, Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian.

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Native American activist Frank LaMere worked tirelessly for nearly two decades to close Whiteclay’s beer stores. Frank is featured in the documentary, Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, where he visits with a group of tribal activists at Camp Whiteclay Justice on the South Dakota / Nebraska border.

In Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, Frank recounts Nebraska’s arrest of him, Russell Means, and seven other tribal members who crossed into Whiteclay during a 1998 march. After their release, Frank and Russell returned to Pine Ridge to address a gathering of Lakotas at Billy Mill’s Hall. Russell Means described how the dominant culture had used alcohol to control Native Americans: “They have you on your knees,” he said, “and they didn’t have to fire a single shot.”

The film’s title, Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, is derived from another Lakota activist, Debra White Plume, who once said that, “A sober Indian is a dangerous Indian.” In the film, Frank LaMere suggests that when Native people become sober, they can begin to ask questions about the injustices that have permeated the relationship between the U.S. and sovereign tribes over the centuries.

Frank LaMere passed away following a brief battle with bile duct cancer on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019. Frank frequently reminded youth and social activists that “Nothing changes unless you make someone else feel uncomfortable. Nothing changes unless you make yourself feel uncomfortable.”


Learn More About the Cause

You can find a video trailer of their film and visit their website to learn more!