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Native American Activist Dies

Winnebago activist Frank LaMere, shown here speaking during a rally in 2016 to mark the first Indigenous Peoples Day in Lincoln, Neb., died Sunday from cancer, according to his daughter.

OMAHA, Neb. | Frank LaMere, a Native American activist who fought for a variety of causes and crusaded to close beer stores near a dry South Dakota Indian reservation, has died. He was 69.

LaMere's daughter, Jennifer LaMere, said her father died Sunday at an Omaha hospital.

LaMere, who was a Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska member, worked for decades to shutter the four stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, that sold millions of cans of beer near the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Regulators closed the stores in 2017.

LaMere also spoke out against the proposed Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Winnebago Tribal Chairman Frank White said LaMere's death is a "great loss for the tribe."

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"Frank was instrumental in bringing to light a lot of issues concerning Native Americans," White said.

Judi Gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, said LaMere also had a talent for connecting with people, regardless of their views.

"He could get along with all kinds of people, and I think that was why he was so effective," she said.

LaMere was also a prominent critic of how the Omaha Police Department treated Zachary BearHeels, a mentally ill Native American man who died in 2017 after officers punched and shocked him with a stun gun.

LaMere was also active in the Nebraska Democratic Party. He served on the Democratic National Committee from 1996 through 2009 and was a delegate for multiple party conventions. He was a member of the American Indian Movement.

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