The saga of Whiteclay, Nebraska, the only city in the United States whose sole industry was selling beer to Native Americans, has finally come to a definitive end. The recent decision by the Nevada State Supreme Court make it almost certain that the four beer stores that made up the town’s sole industry will never operate again.

Many groups lauded the decision. Among them, were a number of Native American anti-alcoholism groups and a filmmaker named John Maisch, a former Liquor Control agent from the neighboring state of Oklahoma, who had produced a documentary about Whiteclay and the devastation that easy access to beer and wine had wrought throughout the reservation. Maisch’s feature-length documentary about Whiteclay gave a brutal look into the horrible suffering and social ills directly inflicted by the ability of Pine Ridge residents, who are technically barred from buying or consuming alcohol on the reservation, to buy cheap beer, just a few hundred yards across the state line. The rates of both alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome throughout the Pine Ridge reservation are among the highest anywhere in the country. The Oglala Sioux, in particular, have a long history of struggling with alcoholism. For this reason, the administrators of the reservation had strictly banned the sale of alcohol since at least the 1870s.

But not everyone was thrilled by the shuttering of the stores. Officials in the nearby town of Rushville, located 23 miles from Whiteclay, have stated that they’ve seen a notable uptick in both drunk driving arrests and accidents since the closure.

Categories: Native American, Native American Culture, Nebraska, Whiteclay

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