Terry Robbins has been sheriff of Sheridan County, Nebraska, for more than a decade. As the top law enforcement official in the sparsely populated county, one of the least-densely populated areas anywhere in the contiguous United States, Sheriff Robbins was long tasked with the dubious honor of being the one responsible for policing the often lawless town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

The town of Whiteclay had garnered a reputation for vagrancy, public drunkenness, fighting and vice. This was due to its unique position as the only town located within easy driving distance from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation where the residents of the reservation could buy beer and wine. The four stores in Whiteclay were the town’s only businesses. And Pine Ridge residents, who are prohibited from both buying and consuming alcohol within the reservation’s borders, would often spend weeks at a time, camped out in the various parking lots, allies and porches of Whiteclay. This led to a state of nearly total anarchy and constant lawlessness, giving the town the reputation of being a modern Wild West trail head watering hole.

But even with this terrible reputation, Sheriff Robbins concedes that the recent decision to permanently shutter the stores may have unintended consequences that outweigh the benefits of removing the criminality from Whiteclay. Robbins says that since the stores were closed last May, there has been a noticeable increase in both drunk driving arrests and alcohol-related accidents. Robbins fears that it is only a matter of time until the increased levels of drunk driving lead to serious consequences.

Categories: Native American, Native American Culture

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