Whiteclay, Nebraska has long been one of America’s most unique towns. With an official population ranging between 4 and 12 for most of its 130-year existence, the town has long had only one industry, the provision of alcohol to the residents of the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation.
But this has come with a host of serious problems. The town has had a reputation for extreme lawlessness since the day the first saloon opened. It has long persisted as a sort of ugly vestige of the American frontier, featuring drunken Natives staggering through the streets, gambling, street fights and drunks passed out by the scores in every area of the town where cars don’t regularly drive, and some where they do.
This Dodge City atmosphere has long attracted the attention of do-gooders of various stripes. Some feel selling alcohol to the Natives itself is immoral. Others decry the human tragedy of passed out drunks littering the frigid winter sidewalks and parking lots. Still others see it as the government’s just role to protect wayward citizens from their own destructive devices.
Yet to what kinds of policies and consequent results these sentiments lead is yet to be seen. It was tried, without much success, during Prohibition. Terry Robbins, the sheriff of Sheridan County, in which Whiteclay is located, thinks that the revocation of the stores’ licenses will lead to a dramatic spike in drunk driving, as Pine Ridge residents simply travel to the next nearest store to get their fix.
Categories: Native American Culture, Nebraska