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October 29 , 2007

The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder

And Other True Stories from the Nebraska–Pine Ridge Border Towns


The long-intertwined communities of the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation and the bordering towns in Sheridan County, Nebraska, mark their histories in sensational incidents and quiet human connections, many recorded in detail here for the first time. After covering racial unrest in the remote northwest corner of his home state of Nebraska in 1999, journalist Stew Magnuson returned four years later to consider the border towns’ peoples, their paths, and the forces that separate them. Examining Raymond Yellow Thunder’s death at the hands of four white men in 1972, Magnuson looks deep into the past that gave rise to the tragedy. Situating long-ranging repercussions within 130 years of context, he also recounts the largely forgotten struggles of American Indian Movement activist Bob Yellow Bird and tells the story of Whiteclay, Nebraska, the controversial border hamlet that continues to sell millions of cans of beer per year to the “dry” reservation. Within this microcosm of cultural conflict, Magnuson explores the odds against community’s power to transcend misunderstanding, alcoholism, prejudice, and violence.

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