Frank LaMere

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Frank LaMere
Franklin Dean LaMere

(1950-03-01)March 1, 1950
South Sioux City, Nebraska, US
DiedJune 16, 2019(2019-06-16) (aged 69)
Omaha, Nebraska, US
Resting placeWinnebago Cemetery
OccupationActivist, Advocate, Politician
Years active46 years
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Dawn Holliday. Cynthia Marie Rouse

Franklin Dean LaMere (March 1, 1950 – June 16, 2019)[1][2] was an American activist and politician. He was a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska from South Sioux City, and the son of a Gold Star Mother and a combat veteran father. He was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s and was noted for his work opposing liquor sales in Whiteclay, Nebraska, a small town whose main industry is selling alcohol to residents of the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol sales are prohibited. LaMere was a leader in the Democratic Party, and served as chairman of the National Native American Caucus. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention seven consecutive times from 1988 to 2012.

Early life and AIM[edit]

LaMere was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early 1970s and was active in demands for reform to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[3] In November 1972, LaMere was a spokesman for a group of AIM members who assembled in front of the federal building in Billings, Montana. Armed guards were posted at the building in response to the assembly, which desired to present a list of demands to the area director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs whose office was in the building.[4] In Billings, Lamere was director of the Wiconi Project in 1973[5] and the Montana United Indian Association in 1974.[6]

LaMere spoke frequently about stereotypes in the media. In 1984, LaMere's sister, Michelle LaMere, died in a hit-and-run. LaMere used the example of her treatment in the press as an example of the stereotypical treatment of Indians as drunks, rather than innocent victims in his speeches in the late 1980s.[7]


LaMere was an athlete as a young man and helped found the all-Native "North Americans" fastpitch softball team in 1989.[8] In the 1990s, LaMere organized 10,000 Sioux, Winnebago, and Omaha who lived in the Sioux City, Iowa area to protest against the proposed name for the Sioux City minor league baseball team, the Sioux City Soos. The name was changed to the Sioux City Explorers.[9]

In the early 1990s, LaMere was a part of a movement by Santee and Winnebago tribes to seek federal loans to buy back reservation land purchased by non-Indians in deals which he claimed were "less than scrupulous".[10] In 1991 he was the chairman of the twelfth National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference in Spokane, Washington.[11]

Liquor sales in Whiteclay, Nebraska[edit]

LaMere was involved in a campaign against alcohol sales to Indians in Whiteclay, Nebraska near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Alcohol sales are prohibited on the reservation.[12] LaMere considered many different tactics to deal with liquor sales at Whiteclay, from protests, to opening an Indian owned liquor store and using the proceeds to fund a rehabilitation center, to claiming that the town of Whiteclay should be a part of the reservation based on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.[13]

LaMere along with Russell Means, John Yellow Bird, Tom Poor Bear, Webster Poor Bear, Gary Moore, and Benedict Black Elk were arrested for crossing Nebraska State Patrol police lines during a protest on July 3, 1999.[14] In the fall of 1999, Means and LaMere proposed getting a license to sell beer in Whiteclay, in order to retain some monies to benefit the tribe and build a treatment center on the reservation, but abandoned the project due to disagreement by others of their group.[15] Other activists who have worked with LaMere regarding Whiteclay include Clyde Bellecourt and Dennis Banks.[12]

LaMere's activity in the Whiteclay issue continued into 2016. In 2008, film-maker Mark Vasina produced a documentary about the activity in Whiteclay of Lamere, Means, and Duane Martin, Jr. called The Battle for Whiteclay. On May 13, 2019, LaMere received an honorary degree from Nebraska Wesleyan for his work in Whiteclay.[16]

Political activities[edit]

LaMere served as Democratic Party chairman of the National Native American Caucus.[12] He served as executive director of the Nebraska Inter-Tribal Development Corporation.[17] He was a member of the Nebraska Indian Commission.[14] Frank LaMere was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention seven consecutive times from 1988 to 2012.[18] In the 2010s, he was executive director of the Four Directions center in Sioux City, Nebraska. In 2011 he was awarded the "War Eagle Human Rights award" by the Sioux City Human Rights Commission for his lifelong activity, including his work in Whiteclay and his work lobbying in support of the 2003 Iowa Indian Child Welfare Act.[19]

LaMere was active in groups opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in the early 2010s, work which brought him in close contact with Bold Nebraska's Jane Fleming Kleeb, husband of Scott Kleeb. Jane became chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party in 2016, and LaMere was elected first associate chair.[20]

Personal life[edit]

LaMere was married to Cynthia (née Rouse). He had four children, Jennifer, Hazen, Manape Hocinci-ga and Lexie Wakan. His parents were John and Matilda LaMere. His brothers included Anthony, David, Darrell, Larry, Randall and Willard, and his sisters included Laura, Lauren, Candace, Jackie, Michelle and Karen. Lexie Wakan died of leukemia in 2014.[21] In early 2012, LaMere suffered a stroke.[18] On June 16, 2019, LaMere died of bile duct cancer, aged 69.[22]


  1. ^ Klein, Barry T. (2005). Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian. Todd Pub. p. 655. ISBN 978-0-915344-77-2.
  2. ^ "Longtime Nebraska activist Frank LaMere dies at age 69".
  3. ^ "Indians Meet at BIA Office". Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota). November 9, 1972. p. 7.
  4. ^ "Post Guards in Billings". The Daily Plainsman. November 9, 1972. p. 8. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Wanted". The Montana Standard. February 25, 1973. p. 25. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "The Montana native American and post-secondary education (1974)". Montana Commission on Post-secondary Education. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  7. ^ Hecht, Michael L. (April 13, 1998). Communicating Prejudice. SAGE Publications. p. 54.
  8. ^ Been, Scott (July 11, 1993). "North Americans Continue Tradition". News Oklahoma. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  9. ^ Stapleton, Bruce (2001). Redskins: Racial Slur Or Symbol of Success?. iUniverse. p. 54.
  10. ^ "Indians Seek Loans to Buy Back Land". Aberdeen Daily News. May 8, 1992. p. 9.
  11. ^ "30th Anniversary NINAETC program" (PDF). National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Johansen, Bruce Elliott (April 9, 2013). Encyclopedia of the American Indian Movement. ABC-CLIO. p. 172.
  13. ^ "Indian Activists Disagree over Whiteclay Beer Store". Aberdeen Daily News. October 7, 1999. p. 9.
  14. ^ a b "Whiteclay Plea Agreement Fails in March 6 Cases". Aberdeen Daily News. September 15, 2000. p. 13.
  15. ^ Hendee, David; Hammel, Paul (October 6, 1999). "Whiteclay Beer Proposal Divides Indian Leaders". Omaha World-Herald.
  16. ^ "Native activist receives honorary degree for work in border town". May 13, 2019.
  17. ^ Johansen, Bruce Elliott (1999). The Encyclopedia of Native American Economic History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 84.
  18. ^ a b Hayworth, Bret (September 2, 2012). "Siouxland Democrats heading to convention to boost Obama". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Zerschling, Lynn (December 10, 2011). "Sioux City community members honored for civil rights work". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  20. ^ Pluhacek, Zach (June 18, 2016). "In Democratic shakeup, Jane Kleeb elected state party chairman". Lincoln Journal Star.
  21. ^ "Lexie Wakan LaMere (Obituary)". Sioux City Journal. January 5, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  22. ^ "Winnebago activist Frank LaMere passes on". Retrieved June 17, 2019.