The Nebraska Liquor Control Board recently voted to revoke the licenses of all liquor stores operating in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. The tiny enclave, with a population of just 12, has long been a lightning rod of complaints and activism for its role in supplying the nearby Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation with beer. The reservation has, by law, been dry since its founding, with all alcohol sales strictly prohibited.
The town of Whiteclay has a long and sordid history of being a one-industry town. Since the late 1880s, the town’s singular industry has been the provision of alcohol to the Native Americans, many of whom are severe alcoholics, who walk the 250 yards across the state line to reach the tiny town.
Over the last few decades, a diverse group of voices has melded into a chorus, protesting the very existence of the town and exhorting the State of Nebraska to do something about the loophole that exists for Pine Ridge residents to score easy alcohol, in contravention of the rules of the reservation. Finally, it seems that these voices have won out. The state’s Liquor Board has voted, in a binding resolution, to permanently shutter the four liquor stores that comprise the only economic activity in the town of Whiteclay.
But experts say the fight is far from over. The stores are appealing the ruling, which would overturn the status quo that has existed for over 130 years. The coming months will tell if the Liquor Board’s decision will stand.