In April of this year, the Nebraska Liquor Control Board finally did what lawmakers, politicians and sheriffs had been threatening to do since 1880, they revoked the beer sales licenses of the four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, effectively ending the ability of Natives from the nearby Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation to easily access beer.
However, many have warned of unintended consequences. It is already clear that the Natives who had made a habit of buying their beer in Whiteclay have not given up drinking. Instead, they are hopping in their cars and driving to the nearest towns. Unfortunately, most of the closest liquor stores are approximately 25 miles into Sheridan County, Nebraska.
The largest city where the Pine Ridge Natives are now seeking to buy beer and liquor is Rushville, Nebraska, the seat of Sheridan County. Terry Robbins, the Sheridan County sheriff, has been a vocal skeptic of the closure of the Whiteclay stores. He says that his office is already seeing evidence of increased drunk driving arrests on the county’s roads, as intoxicated Natives drive farther to seek their alcohol fix. This is a consequence of shutting the stores in Whiteclay that the sheriff has long predicted would come to pass.
Others in Rushville are no more pleased with the move to shutter the Whiteclay beer stores. The town’s mayor, Chris Heiser, has said that although his town’s liquor stores have seen a 25 percent boost in sales, he too is seeing evidence of some of the notorious public safety issues that plagued Whiteclay for over a hundred years are now showing up in his town. The Rushville City Council even went to the length of passing a string of new ordinances, which prohibit everything from public drunkenness to public urination, in anticipation of an influx of beer-seeking refugees from Whiteclay.
The mayor says that no one has been cited under the new ordinances, yet. But like Sheriff Robbins, he has seen increases in drunken driving and intoxicated people walking through the streets.
Categories: Native American, Native American Culture, Native American History, Nebraska, Nebraska Liquor Control Board, The Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation, Whiteclay