A recent vote by the Nebraska State Liquor Control Board has put the future of Whiteclay, Nebraska in serious doubt. The town’s sole industry consists of its four liquor stores, which sell beer almost exclusively to the residents of the neighboring Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation.

 

Since its founding in the 1880s, Whiteclay has been a one-industry town. The neighboring Indian reservation, which was established by the Laramie Treaty at a time when the Sioux were still viewed as a serious military threat by the United States government, has been dry since its first day of operation. This means that liquor sales are strictly prohibited, punishable by serious fines and prison time.

 

But the town of Whiteclay sprang up, just a few hundred feet over the state line, as a means to bypass the ban on alcohol sales that reign on the reservation. This has led to a sordid 130-year history of street brawls, public drunkenness, gambling and other vice and general lawlessness that has made the town a sort of living vestige of the Wild West. Politicians, activists and assorted do-gooders have long sought to terminate the licenses of the liquor stores doing business in Whiteclay.

 

But the historic vote by the Liquor Board marks the first time in 130 years that any real steps have been taken to shut the town’s liquor stores down. However, critics warn that shuttering the stores will just result in Natives drunk driving to much further towns and will create opportunities for bootleggers and other criminals to provide alcohol to the reservation.

Categories: Native American, Whiteclay

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