The Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation is the poorest place in the United States. Its residents have struggled with substance abuse, extreme poverty, lack of education and unemployment since the days when Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse still counted among its leadership. But while these problems have always been complex and intertwined, many critics and activists have zeroed in on the ban of alcohol sales as a magic antidote to all that plagues the reservation and its people.
The neighboring town of Whiteclay, just a few hundred feet over the Nebraska border, has long been a source of alcohol for those who could not find any on the dry Pine Ridge reservation. Since its founding over 130 years ago, Whiteclay has been a one-industry town. Its sole purpose has been the provision of alcohol to the Pine Ridge Natives.
This has come with the ugly optics drunk-fueled lawlessness naturally creates. With most such cases, eventually a social justice warrior here or a do-gooder there will take note and begin agitating for the evil vice in question to be permanently removed. Such is the case now. The Nebraska Liquor Control Board has voted to revoke permanently the licenses of all four Whiteclay liquor stores, after 130 years of continuous operation. The move was roundly applauded in do-gooder and teetotaler circles the state over.
But like with Prohibition, there will certainly be a string of unintended consequences. If other such mommy-knows-best, nanny-state shenanigans, like the drug war, serve as any guide, it will ultimately be the ones supposedly being helped who suffer the most.
Categories: Native American Culture, Whiteclay