In late April of this year, the Nebraska State Liquor Control Board dealt a decisive blow to the four liquor stores operating in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Since the early 1880s, the town’s one industry had been the provision of beer and booze to the Native Americans of the nearby Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation. This arrangement came about due to the strict banning of alcohol sales within the reservation’s borders. On May 1 of this year, the stores finally shut down for the first time in almost 135 years.
The move of the Liquor Board was widely applauded by many, especially across the state of Nebraska. However, there has also been a surprising amount of dissent, mostly coming from locals of Sheridan County, where Whiteclay is located, as well as from some groups of Natives themselves.
One of the strongest concerns that many of the opponents of the closure of the stores have is that the inability to access alcohol so close to the reservation will lead to a rapid increase in drunk driving throughout Sheridan County. This sentiment was expressed by that county’s sheriff, Terry Robbins, who was a staunch opponent of the revocation of the stores licenses. The move was also opposed by a number of prominent Natives on the reservation, who point to similar concerns.
Already, there is evidence that the opponents may have been right all along. The city of Rushville, Nebraska, located 21 miles south of Pine Ridge, has seen an explosion in liquor sales since the closure of the Whiteclay stores.