Pine Ridge Reservation v Whiteclay NE Liquor Stores Ramps Up
(Goes to the Scottsbluff NE Star-Herald with details of the twenty-two charges and the history of the fight between the Lakota and Whiteclay)
LINCOLN — The four beer-only liquor stores in the border village of Whiteclay are facing a new set of allegations, including that they illegally sell beer to bootleggers and sell alcohol after hours.
The 22 citations, recently filed by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, represent a new offensive against the continued sale of beer in the unincorporated village.
The equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer a year are sold in Whiteclay, which has been blamed for the multiple alcohol-related woes across the Nebraska-South Dakota state line on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol possession and sales are banned.
“We consider these serious violations and are prepared to provide appropriate evidence in support of these allegations,” said Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Representatives of the four beer stores and their attorneys declined to comment when contacted by phone Tuesday.
The four stores already face an April 7 hearing before the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to determine whether adequate law enforcement exists in Whiteclay — a village of about 12 people that has no local police force or zoning laws — to allow beer sales to continue.
Now, a second, separate hearing over the future of beer sales in Whiteclay will be scheduled, likely May 2 or May 3, to decide whether the new allegations are valid and whether the stores’ licenses should be suspended, canceled or revoked.
The unincorporated place (that is the legal term in Nebraska) of Whiteclay has long been in the crosshairs of the Lakota Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Alcohol is banned on the reservation: Whiteclay is just across the state line in Nebraska, and liquor stores there exist solely to sell alcohol to residents of Pine Ridge.
For a number of years the problem has been ignored by Nebraska, whilst both South Dakota and the Lakota Sioux have tried to get Nebraska to rein in the alcohol sales (Whiteclay sells enough alcohol to power a fairly large city, though only twelve people live there).
Incorporated cities (such as my own village) have control over liquor licensing. In my village’s case, two businesses are authorised to sell beer and liquor.
As an unincorporated place, Whiteclay liquor licenses are granted by the Sheridan County Board (that county’s SW corner borders my county’s NE corner). Across the state line, the Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the most desperately poor areas of the nation. There are almost no businesses or jobs available there.
Sheridan County recently recommended renewing liquor licenses in Whiteclay.
Sheridan County Board Recommends Renewal of Whiteclay Beer Outlets’ Liquor Licenses (Goes to the Omaha World-Herald, more at the link, more below the quote, includes a sad photo of Sioux sleeping on the street in front of a liquor store in Whiteclay):
LINCOLN — The controversial beer outlets in Whiteclay, Nebraska, passed a preliminary step Tuesday in their effort to continue selling alcohol in the remote border village.
On a 3-0 vote, the Sheridan County Board recommended renewal of the liquor licenses for the four stores, which sell the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer a year. Almost all of those sales are to residents of the officially dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation just across the South Dakota border. Critics say the stores fuel epidemic rates of alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome on the reservation.
The issue now heads to the three-member Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, which will make the final decision on the licenses in March.
Typically, such licenses are routinely renewed. But the liquor commission, citing concerns about inadequate law enforcement in the unincorporated village, decided to require the beer outlets, for the first time, to reapply for their licenses.
Inadequate is right. Whiteclay has no law enforcement. Sheridan County provides police services through its sheriff’s department, but its sheriff department has to cover for 5,400 people spread out over 2,470 sq. miles / 6,397 sq. km. It is impossible for the Sheridan County Sheriff to police Whiteclay adequately.
The issue with Whiteclay has gained attention (finally) here with the populace after considerable attention was directed at the village by statewide press coverage in print and on television.
Sheridan County’s population has been shrinking ever since the start of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The liquor stores in Whiteclay represent a significant portion of tax revenue for the county.
Let’s hope the state Liquor Control Board ends this travesty.
(edited for spelling)