Indians Rejoice at White Clay Liquor Stores Being Closed For Good!

2017-10-05 / Voices

Whiteclay Is Closed


When the announcement came down last week that the Nebraska Supreme Court had upheld a decision made by the state’s liquor commission to not renew the licenses issued to bar owners in Whiteclay it was a surreal moment.

For those of us who grew up in Pine Ridge Village the constant presence of Whiteclay was something that many of us just sort of learned to live with. As a teenager it was common knowledge that kids our age had no problem going in to Stateline Liquor to purchase whatever we desired. Some of my friends chose to partake more than others, but we all knew that you didn’t need to be 21 to buy alcohol at this specific establishment.

While this may have changed over the years, the notion of Whiteclay being a lawless and often dangerous town was absolutely accurate. There was no presence of law enforcement from Nebraska, the only time you would see cops in the town was when tribal cops would go through the town just to turn around at the end of it on their way back to Pine Ridge. Most of the time people would be walking out of the bars visibly holding a package of beer that was destined for the lands of the Oglala. All of the beer purchased in Whiteclay went north to Pine Ridge. Residents of Nebraska bought their alcohol in Rushville or Chadron. These people didn’t want anything to do with the eye-sore town.

I know a ton of people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who drink alcohol responsibly. Just like any other part of America. Many of our people who drink alcohol are not alcoholics despite what the media asserts. What has bothered me about alcohol sales in Pine Ridge is that the people who profited from the suffering of alcoholics have never done a darn thing to help the communities from which their customers came from.

When a drunk would come in to the stores, there was never any effort by the bar owners to call for a ride for them. The bar owners never volunteered to steer some of their immense profit towards youth activities that could help prevent alcoholism. No, these store owners sat back and collected money off of people’s suffering. I have even seen instances where some of these bar owners attacked our own people who were living on the streets. I am not shedding any tears for their loss.

In all the years that Whiteclay was in operation the State of Nebraska not once proposed a profit sharing agreement with the tribe on tax revenue. Sheridan County did nothing to increase the presence of law enforcement. All it did was sit back and watch as alcoholism stuffed the county’s coffers.

Politically, I’ve always considered myself to be a middle of the road type. I am conservative on some issue, but I’ve also been known to steer to the far left on certain topics. On this particular issue, I absolutely agree that liquor sales in Whiteclay needed to come to an end.

Good riddance to Whiteclay.

Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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