Gold Mines in Hell

Whiteclay, Nebraska. Population 14, exists only to sell alcohol to Native Americans already reeling from its damage. / Photo by Stephanie Woodard

In Nebraska, some liquor stores sell booze to minors and manage to hang onto their licenses, according to Nebraska Liquor Control Commission data. That’s as long as the stores are doing business in Whiteclay, Nebraska, located about 250 feet south of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The reservation, almost all of which lies just over the border in South Dakota, is officially dry, with consumption, possession and sales of alcohol banned. Meanwhile, tribal members, including youngsters caught in a recent police sting, make up almost the entire customer base of Whiteclay’s four liquor stores, which sell the equivalent of 4.9 million cans of beer annually out of ramshackle buildings lining a two-lane prairie road. With no white settlements for miles around, and a population of 14, not counting the drunks passed out in the streets, the town appears to exist primarily to get liquor onto the dry reservation.

Business is brisk in Whiteclay. But some nights are special. “Every year on prom night, you can watch reservation high-school kids in tuxedos and prom dresses pulling up and buying cases of beer,” said a tribal member, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. “They’re obviously under 21. I did it myself when I was in high school.” He  bought his first beer in Whiteclay at 14, he said.

Whiteclay’s beer stores also trade alcohol for sex and sell to bootleggers, intoxicated customers and people who have no legal place, such as a licensed bar or café, in which to consume their purchases. That’s according to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which has filed a federal lawsuit against the stores and the breweries and distributors that supply them, for knowingly contributing to the epidemic of alcoholism on their impoverished reservation.

While plying their trade, the beer stores create wealth locally and throughout the state, taking in millions of dollars in revenue and generating income, business and sales taxes. In 2010, just the federal and state excise taxes (included in liquor’s sale price) amounted to $413,932, according to the state liquor commission.

More alcohol-derived dollars flow into and around the state, thanks to campaign contributions from local liquor distributors and trade groups and international manufacturers like Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser and other brands: they gave candidates for in-state offices $135,000 in 2010, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics.

The beer storeowners in Whiteclay declined to comment for this article, but Vic Clark, manager of the Arrowhead Foods grocery and a town resident since 1993, called all of its businesses “gold mines in hell.”

“Hell” is a good description of what the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit says liquor has done to its community. The complaint claims alcohol’s “devastating injuries” have overwhelmed the tribe’s health-care, social-services, education and justice systems for generations. According to the tribal government, alcoholism has a severe impact on 85 percent of reservation families. About 90 percent of crime on Pine Ridge is alcohol-related, says its police department–which has no jurisdiction over Whiteclay.

Policing comes from a town 20 miles away that relies on occasional patrols and a camera mounted in Whiteclay to see if anything’s going on. A year ago, store owners beat a Native American man in front of their establishment, landing him in the hospital, according to filmmaker Mark Vasina, director of the award-winning 2008 documentary, Battle for Whiteclay. The camera did not pick up the assault. “It doesn’t pick up bootleggers filling their trunks behind the stores either,” Vasina said.

“Whiteclay is a unique situation,” said the tribe’s attorney, Tom White, of White and Jorgenson, in Omaha. “When a liquor store elsewhere sells its goods, it can assume they will be used lawfully. In contrast, in Whiteclay, there’s no publicly accessible place to consume alcohol legally, so the stores sell it knowing that, without a doubt, it will be used unlawfully.” The beer must be either consumed in public in violation of Nebraska law or carried onto the dry reservation in violation of Oglala Sioux Tribe law, White said.

The tribe’s lawsuit also claims that years of media coverage of Whiteclay–from newspaper and magazine articles to a feature-length documentary movie and YouTube videos–means everyone in the supply chain, from the breweries to the retail stories, is well aware of problems associated with the town’s liquor trade.

It's all about the brew. / Photo by citizen journalist*

“They all know they’ve unleashed a flood of alcohol onto a vulnerable population,” said White.

“Supply and demand,” Clark said. “That’s why businesses pop up.” He scoffed at the idea of ongoing criminality in Whiteclay, as opposed to occasional mishaps–misreading the date on an ID and selling to a minor by mistake, for example. “These [beer-store owners] are family guys,” he said. “Why would they jeopardize their businesses for a few extra dollars?” He dismissed the Oglala lawsuit as “politics” and “blatant lies,” adding, “No one wants to make the tribe accountable. The beer stores are not the police of Native American people.”

Clark addressed the allegations of sex-for-beer exchanges. “There’s not sex happening. If it is, it’s no different than Scottsbluff, Omaha or Lincoln. Someone says, ‘I’ll flash you some boob if you buy me a beer’–that’s how society works,” he explained. “Whiteclay is no different from any town by any reservation in the United States.”

James (Toby) Big Boy, chairman of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Judiciary Committee, said that the tribe has been trying for years to shut down liquor sales over the border in Nebraska, to no avail. Tribal leaders have pleaded with Nebraska state officeholders to crack down on Whiteclay, set up tribal-police blockades of the road to the town and held annual protest marches focusing on unsolved murders and unexplained deaths of Native Americans in the Whiteclay area.

“Alcohol is depleting our people and our culture,” Big Boy said, adding that the tribe is turning to the courts out of desperation. “We’ve tried talking to Nebraska and gotten nowhere. The federal government doesn’t care either; it never even pushed for justice in the case of the murders.”

Where the money goes. / Photo by citizen journalist*

Of all the startling statistics associated with Pine Ridge–85% unemployment, an infant mortality rate 300% higher than the country as a whole, teen suicide 150% higher and life expectancy at least 25 years shorter–the one that most affected White, he said, was the proportion of Pine Ridge children diagnosed with fetal-alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

“One in four children on the reservation has fetal-alcohol effects,” the lawyer said. “That condemns a baby to a life of misery before it takes its first breath.”

The power of alcohol on the reservation may be hard for outsiders to understand, said the tribal member who bought his first Whiteclay beer at 14 and is now sober: “It affects us like crack cocaine affects other people. Our children are exposed to alcohol before they’re born. They’re born into damaged families. With no jobs to be found, there’s nothing to do when they grow up, and alcohol offers a way to blot out reality.”

Several major breweries supply the beer on Whiteclay shelves, including Miller, Molson Coors and Pabst, according to the state liquor commission. The bulk of Whiteclay sales, though–about 75%–comes from Anheuser-Busch. Leading up to the 2010 election, the giant firm donated to many Nebraska candidates, including the current governor, Republican Dave Heineman, who received $11,000. All told, beer, liquor and wine companies made up Heineman’s top-contributing industry sector, at more than $96,000. Candidates for other offices that year received amounts ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Neither Anheuser Busch nor the governor’s office replied to requests for a comment.

Even impoverished reservations–including Pine Ridge, one of the poorest places in the nation, according to the U.S. Census–can be economic drivers in their regions. That’s because they have minimal economies of their own, with few stores or service businesses where people can spend their money. As a result, little money changes hands on the reservation itself. Funds that do arrive (generally federal dollars, including Social Security, welfare and veterans’ benefits) flow off the reservation almost immediately, typically landing in non-Indian enterprises.

“The federal government sends some $80 million annually to Pine Ridge, and that money is spent in Nebraska, including towns like Chadron, where Walmart built a superstore,” said Nebraska state senator LeRoy J. Louden, who represents the area around Whiteclay and is non-partisan (not affiliated with either major party). “That store was built because of the reservation.”

Whiteclay’s Arrowhead Foods did more than a million dollars in business last year, with an entirely Native American clientele, according to Clark. “I love what I do. It’s kind of a blessing,” he said.

This year, Louden has introduced a bill to create alcohol-impact zones. If it is enacted, local governments–such as Sheridan County, surrounding Whiteclay–would be able ask the state liquor commission to set up special controls in areas where public drunkenness and other alcohol-related problems occur. For example, liquor-store hours might be shortened. “Perhaps you couldn’t start selling till noon,” Loudon said, adding that Whiteclay stores are now open from 8 am until 11 pm.

“I testified in favor of the measure, though it does just a little in terms of solving the problem,” said Vasina. “What Whiteclay needs is 24-hour patrols and comprehensive police investigations of wrongdoing.”

What about personal responsibility, asked Nebraska state senator Tyson Larson, a Republican, who called the lawsuit a product of attorney White “chasing the big pay day.” White is a trial attorney, said Larson, “and they’re always looking for something.” In any case, Larson said, it’s not government’s responsibility to protect you from yourself: “Maybe from other people, such as in laws against drinking and driving. But if you want to drink, you have to live with the consequences.”

Vasina disagreed, calling alcoholism a public health issue. “It’s a disease,” he said. “If we have diseases in the mainstream community–whether infectious diseases like swine flu or drug addictions–we mobilize, producing vaccines, laws, police investigations or whatever is necessary. If we had meth labs in our neighborhoods, would we leave the problem up to individual addicts to resolve? That’s a fairy tale. We are applying rules to the reservation we don’t apply to ourselves.”

“Over the years, thousands have died, and thousands of children have been orphaned, thanks to Whiteclay,” said Winnebago activist Frank LaMere, who has fought for 15 years to close down the town’s liquor trade. “If something like this were to happen in Omaha, Lincoln or any other city or town not associated with a reservation, it would be fixed immediately.”


*Photo note: Photos by citizen journalist provided on condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution.

Stephanie Woodard

Stephanie Woodard

Stephanie Woodard, a member of 100Reporters, is an investigative journalist focusing on Native issues. She worked as an editor for over 20 years, and is currently a correspondent for Native-owned newsmagazine Indian Country Today. She has received Folio awards, as well as the Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting.
Stephanie Woodard

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  1. Dear Ms. Jean Schemo – do you have any referrals for any tribal leaders on Pine Ridge, or any other kinds of non-profits working to combat alcoholism friends nationally could turn to and make a donation? I’ve personally decided to give up booze for the month of February as a matter of practice, and would love to donate what I would have spent on booze to a worthy cause such as bringing down the infant mortality rate, teen suicide rate, and help increase life expectancy on Pine Ridge. Please let me know!

  2. The alcohol problems facing native americans are tragic, however prohibition has never worked anywhere. If they can’t get alcohol just off the res, bootleggers will drive farther to Gordon or rushville to buy alcohol. Many will drink while driving back. Since alcohol is harder to get the price will go up on the res futher impoverishing the poor especially those with out cars. Crack cocaine and meth are illegal everywhere and abuse of those substances exist everywhere do you really think it will be any different on pine ridge? The only way to solve th is problem is by helping the diseased abuser

  3. This is definitely a sad situation which has a focus on that greatly espoused American virtue:  profits.  Maybe there is really no one answer that will work.  I have found that those Tribes which build strong institutions within their own sovereign structures are the ones who help their people in a most efficient and effective manner.  Sadly, no Indian tribe has the law enforcement support mechanisms to curb most of the problems which are endemic on reservations.  I have dealt with situations where an officer gets off his shift at 6 a.m., then he has to be back in Court for his cases at 9 a.m.  Then, he has to be back on his shift as early as 2 p.m. that afternoon.  This leads to huge physcial, mental and morale problems.  Also, there is a matter of prioritizing problems with a limited funding source, and most Tribes face the same alcohol and drug problems as the rest of America.  I commend the Tribe for its proactive stance on addressing the situation through the filing of its lawsuit; however my experience is that this will take years to resolve and the problems are more immediate.

    If Whiteclay went away, would that solve the problem?  My thoughts are that the root causes are much deeper than that, and the Tribe should be prepared to address those root causes.  Whiteclay appears to be a manifestation of an opportunistic non-Indian population taking it to the limit.

  4. Filing  a federal lawsuit against the stores and the breweries and distributors that supply said alcohol is not a new story:nor is it the solution. The lawsuit states that they  are knowingly contributing to the epidemic of alcoholism on the impoverished Sioux reservation. It is hard to believe the basis of the lawsuit and the last sentence of their lawsuit.The liquor story is such an old one, that not only applies to the Sioux but to most Reservations in America. It is true that many reservations have impoverished Natives, by white standards in the USA.  The question that comes to my mind is: Where do they get the money to buy the liquor if they are so impoverished? If the Sioux feel that strongly about keeping their reservation DRY, One solution would be for the reservation to put up entry borders, similar to borders between Canada or Mexico and the US where reservation patrol officials would check every vehicle coming back from these near-by towns where the liquor is sold. And smash or empty the bottles & beer cans in front of the Native perpetrators, to get them to stop. A more practical solution however, would be to start teaching Native children in school, about the harm brought on by the abuse of Alcohol, Drug use and over-eating as obesity numbers in the high percentage too.  These three trigger other major problems like suicide in most reservations.  Suicide runs high, because of inactivity, boredom & lack of pride and dignity. And by the way, not all Sioux or other Original Natives of the 575 Nations are poor or suffer from these addictions. I believe that only extensive and well organized educational programs will bring the desperately needed change, not only for the Sioux, but for all Original Natives of America. 

  5. The politicians are too worried about birth control to do anything about this. I have adopted a child who’s family is from this tribe and he was also born with substance and alcohol in his body. He suffers daily from memory loss and learning disablities. I am thankful everyday that he is in our life and away from the sadness that affects his people. Something needs to be done but more than just take the booze away.  Programs are needed to help fight the disease and help those affected. Hopefully, we can raise our son to become a leader and be able to help later in his life.

  6. Alcohol is a major medical and social problem on many, if not all, Native American reservations, not just at Pine Ridge.  Another prevalent problem is diabetes.  Both are brought about because of poor dietary decision-making.
    There is some speculation that Native American genetics actually makes them more vunerable to these problems than caucasions.  But the lack of available work and a centuries-long effort to derstroy their culture also contributes to a mind set that is ripe for alcohol abuse.
    By the way, I have witnessed some of the most blatent racism in Nebraska and Wyoming, so it’s no surprise the local politicians don’t give a damn.  Anything that weakens or kills Indians seems okay by their view.  The Siouz still haven’t, apparently, been punished enough for General Custer.
    The store-keeper mentioned in this article might consider himself a “good Christian.”  But for any business in a town of barely a dozen people to achieve a million dollars in sales has to indicate some kind of questionable, and perhaps criminal, dealings.
    Isn’t it too bad that some of the Federal Government’s 80-million-dollars in aid to the Pine Ridge Sioux couldn’t be used to attack this criminal activity?
    Maybe a few churches who send missionaries to the Sioux should try sending them to Whiteclay instead.  It appears they, and must of the area’s politicians, need to have their consciences reinforced.

  7. People are responsible for THEMSELVES.
    However, the disgustting actions of selling alcohol to minors assists in the propogation of alcoholism for those minors as time and readily available liquor is sold to them.Also the fact that
    they trade alcohol for sex  adds to that downfall.
    The Govenor of nebraska needs to light a fire under law enforcement and the local judicial system and build cases against the whiteclay distributors and stores

  8. True, it does come down to supply and demand. But, what can be done to lessen the demand? There clearly are dollars floating around to encourage those businesses to continue. How can the Native Americans who are frequenting the liquor stores come to want to spend their money on their own home towns. Investing in themselves for the sake of their own families? Those of you who have been working on the reservations are the people to ask. You see first hand what is needed. How can those of us who are of moderate means but still managing, help our fellow Americans who are trapped is such a deep myre?

  9. This problem was being addressed  by AIM in the 70s. The US government stopped it with the unlawful imprisonment of Leonard Peltier. (Incident at Oglala). Leonard Peltier along with John Trudell and many others made great sacrifices trying to better the lives of the people on reservations.
     As for advice to the Native Americans all I can say is What Would Crazy Horse Do? I have my own ideas on the answer and I don’t think any of it involves the US Government.
     The reservations are self governing their ways work easier and sometimes even better than the US’s. My own opinion WhiteClay should in the near future become the Wounded Knee of the new Millenium. Just my humble opinion.

  10. what about having a indian casino near you that caters too people with gambling addictions? How many lifes have they destroyed trying to make a buck? How many marriages have their gambling casinos runied? The should look at educating their own people and stop blaming everyone for their problems. Nothing is their own fault. If Whiteclay was closed those folks would find some other place to get beer or make it themselves. It works both ways gambling addiction is just as bad and alcholism would they shut down their business so people would’nt gamble?

  11. Why aren’t the Indian police enforcing the “no alcohol” law on their property?
    The store owners are selling alcohol legally. The Indians are breaking the law by taking it onto their land and drinking. The is another case of people who won’t take responsibility for their own actions and simply want to blame others. This court case is going nowhere.

  12. I believe that the main problem in  many reservations is the lack of economic development which is needed. Without the ability to create and pursue a life with standards people tend to fall victim of abuses. Without a dream the people perish. All of America has had economic stimulus, and the vast majority of Americans have had more then their fair share. I have heard and watched articles and news on the reservations and have had first hand experience with some of the people from reservations and will say that without creating a economic base and industry the problem will only get worse no matter what you do. I am a religious man and believe that faith in God is something society needs, and believe that investment in these communities is something that will deter much of the abuses which these men and women do, and they will control their addicitions because of choice.  

  13. I think the AIM should be down there, raising hell, and bringing National attention to this issue! I grew up on various reservations, and this exists on the bordors of every reservation. Non Natives never believe me when I tell them how it is. It’s about time they sue, and do whatever else they have to do to turn this culture of greed and continued moral bankruptcy around…..

    • I’m wondering what the average person can do to help…how should we do it. It seems like a tremendous waste of human potential for this to continue.

      • It’s a tough one, but I think if a large group of people went down there with signs, bullhorns, and lots of media attention, so much attention would be called to this situation, that they would have to ACT! Kind of like “Occupy Whiteclay!” I think the Oglala Sioux Tribal leadership would welcome this and support it. I think AIM, (American Indian Movement) would also. We are so busy protesting, and bringing National attention to attroceties in other Nations, but what about the Indiginous people in or own country? Reservations are  Internment camps for Native Americans, and the average American does not even seem to care what has been done to these people……

        • boohoo… poor indians. Here is an idea… get some jobs for your people so they are not so depressed they drink all day long. The whole nation has a choice of what to drink, eat, smoke or worship. As long as selling beer and booze is legal in the state it should be legal everywhere in the state. What YOU DO WITH IT IS YOUR responsibility. Black people worked as slaves in the past and had it worse than you and they realize the obvious issues… EACH PERSON IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEMSELVES. They died in chains and working a field for generations. They have the same privledges as everyone else now same as you. You have free land to live and worship on and your still not happy. Stop wasting everyone’s time and educate your own people… You wouldn’t have as far to walk. So stop crying and looking for a free hand out. And yes before everyone starts flaming me what we did to the indians and black people was horrible… there is also nothing I can do about that either. Take responsibility for yourselves right now and realize the fault is your own. If we show you how to make a fire and you keep sticking your hand in it … its not our fault you are retarded. 

  14. This is the continued holicost of our people. We are certainly defeated by alcohol and drugs. Should this be in any other part of this land it would have been stopped years ago. Good for those who are standing up against the murder that continues. We should all stand up with them. I know I do in every way I can- how about you ??

  15. Trucker Mark, you are a very observant, solution oriented individual who can see the whole picture.  If the rest of America thought the way you did, we would have never been in this situation in the first place.  You bring some excellent resolve to this situation and your insight could help America in many other ways, also.  It’s unfortunate the majority did not think like you. 
    I believe that due to our declining economy, we are going to have to all think like that in the near future or we will not survive.  We are all human beings and we should start behaving like a  human. Thank you for your comments.

  16. Would it not be a shame to see a great tornado wipe out the
    small burg of Whiteclay, Ne.This would be a god send.A
    lightening strike during the next thunder storm would do
    wonders for the landscape!
    Mother God we need some help here!

  17. everone needs to read this, and know how the native american people are treated.they have more right to be treated well, than everone who lives in the united states.and it is a shame the way they are exploded.

  18. The plight of the native american people on the reservation is sad. There are many young people victims of poverty and poor parenting. The only way to end the alcoholism and poverty on reservations is to educate all the students past high school and then the smart ones would leave. The reservations are run to keep a few people in power. No housing gets done without the reservation corporation building the houses, and they build them as cheap as they can and pocket the extra. If your cousin is in charge of something on the reservation then you can get a job or a handout when they dole out the money. The smart Indians leave to have a better life. The reservation is full of drunks, welfare moms and death, and the sad thing is the people don’t care. They don’t care if their children are taken care of, or go to school or hang themselves. They get attention at funerals and for many kids that is their only way out..

  19. It’s all true.  My mom grew up there and I visited frequently as a child.  It would be a wonderful thing if Whiteclay went away all together. 

  20. Stop crying its not there fault your an alcoholic.
    Maybe the elders should start teaching some culture and heritage!


    • Selling to minors IS their fault.  Pimping people in lieu of cash IS their fault.  Enabling illegal use of a product IS their fault.

  21. The white man has been drinking alcohol for 1000’s of years and the indian a 100 or so. It is not in our blood like the white man. Then they put us on dryed up lands that you cant do anything with. Indians do not think the same as white men. Years ago the white man would not let the indian talk their language and tryed to make them into white people.  Before you talk you need to see for your self why don’t you go live on the reservation for awhile and see. I don’t care what you say you can not change the indian over night like this. The state of Nebraska needs to close up the alcohol in Whiteclay and make everyone around the area follow the law. They need to stop being money hungry.

    • Hey ass hole if you don’t like the res….. move.Stop blaming everyone else for things that individuals need to be responsible for. Got a drinking problem and you know it …don’t drink. Life on the res sucks…move somewhere else. stop being a fucking victim

      • Yeah dude, you just gotta be another self-righteous “right-winger”.  How are babies born with alcohol fetal syndrome supposed to dry themselves out?
        You and your ilk make me sick.

        • LOL its called stop drinking…. make some friends… get a job elsewhere. Orrrrrrrrrrrr maybe take some of those fancy govt. loans and get an ejumica’chun. Maybe like the guy above said…stop being a victim.. its your own freaking body … you have control of it. If your letting your wife drink your while pregnant what do you think the result is gonna be? I mean come on. Help yourself or seek help. Perhaps you should sue the white man for introducing you to flavored tabacco too!! Or maybe even because they bring a wallmart too close by! If you do nothing but stay on the Rez and drink and make no money you cant blame anyone for poverty but yourself. 

          •  You are really making some massive assumptions here, and showing some incredible ignorance. 
             I hope you feel better by venting, because that is the only good that will come out of your rants. 
             No one asked you to take personal responsibility for the incidents, only your own education on the issues.
             Do yourself (and all of society) a favor and take off your blinders.
             If we do not require our local (tribal included), state and federal governments to take responsibility for public safety, then who will.
             This is not just a matter of personal choice. 
             Children cannot be fixed once the damage is done. 
             A combined effort is needed here, and it should start with a critical analysis of why this happened, and what the root causes are, and then a plan and follow up. 
             We cannot take our eyes away from this issue, it is imperative that if you know about it, you act in a responsible manner.
             Please ask yourself, “What can I do?”

        • I’m a ‘right-winger’ … but believe you , me, .. IF I had power to shut down this continued ‘assault’ on my Native Brother …Without a doubt I’d use IT. What with Andrew Jackson (mass-murderer) and these other Hypocrites .. (Left or Right) …. It’s Time NOW, to Give Our Native Brothers & Sisters a ‘Hand-Up’ from the ruthless tyranny of ‘men’ who have for so long, Exploited this ‘once-great land’ … Yeah !! .. I’ll Dance with Wolves … better Believe It !! …. Us People Ain’t Worth Nuthin’ If We Can’t Do Right by Our Brother ….. Damn You Federal Government !!! Damn You Political ‘Leaders’ of the State !! … What You got ‘Coming’, You richly Deserve … !!!

      • hey,asshole-u werent born on reservation !! u don, know what its like!! these people are gov-dependent!!because of assholes like U. WHY don’t U go out ther and help,instead of fucking running your mouth!!!! Now for a well balanced,educated answer, they had a life of luxury before whiteman screwed them, like they are doing now! Go stay for awhile and see if your mentality changes!

      • they wont move due to getting handouts from federal govt. to the tune of 80 million in 2010. Are you f#@$ing kidding me!!!

      • This is so sad.  Just move?  To where?  With what?  First the white man (and I am white) tried to kill all the Indians.  Then they rounded them up and took their homeland and MADE them move to these God forsaken lands with nothing.  They then came into the reservations and took their children away and gave them to the superior “White Man” to tame the savages.  Took away their rights to hunt and live as they had since way before the White Man arrived and took over.  The Indian IS the victim.  When will people see that this earth was ruled by the Indian and was perfect.  Then we came along and look at it now.  Pollution and global warming.  Water polluted.  What a good job we did of taking over America and desacrating it.

        •  I hate to say it, but this whole country was nothing but “god forsaken” land until the white man came in and built an empire. I am not saying that was right, but come on, how long does it take to adapt and improve your lot? Funny thing though, I see nothing in this article about the Indian casino’s popping up across the US and how they destroy thousands of lives for their greed. Same thing really. You would probably say something to the effect of “well don’t go to the casino then” and you would be correct in saying so. When you have a problem, you either fight it or let it consume you. Yes, alcoholism is a horrible addiction to kick, but unless the liquor store owner is holding people down and forcing booze down their throat, it is not their fault. Sure they are greedy and it is wrong to profit off of misery, but come on, take responsibility for your lives people!!

  22. We have been so mean and horribly cruel to the American Indian, who just wanted
     to hunt, on their own lands, we came and put them behind a cage, with hardly any
     resources, and we took away their freedom, their way of Life and the Dignity that
     the American Indian deserves…today, we the American People  were wrong to hate
     the Red man, we were scared of their power, and the Peace they proclaimed as a
     Nation…I am ashamed of what the White man did….CJ

  23. The only real solution is to– not drink, how? By becoming strong in your culture and faith and saying no to the white man’s poison, spirits open doors for destruction, alcoholism is everybodies problem but some are more prone than others to the effects. I had to completely stop drinking and have not had a drop for years now I feel strong and most of all free! Once you triumph over alcohol you can build a future for you, your children, based on dignity, education, and jobs. Look at what you have a huge land base, amazing people, and so much more make a change, give your people a reason NOT TO DRINK! Build a happy hut and put them boosers in there, detox is awful, give them some smoke instead, much better for you and natural. Being your true self is what it’s all about!

    • This is actually the most resonable response I have read.  Most go off blaming one side or the other.  Would anyone be up in arms about a beer store that opened up just beside a trailer park?  Those who have the ability to get out, WILL.  “Downtrodden” people are afforded a much greater ability to achieve in the United States.  The First Nation Peoples who have steered away from the fire-water and who are proud of their true heritage are nothing like those injuns on the Rez. 
      I have great pride in my own true heritage. I have deep shame for the evils which have touched my close family.  I have no expectation of The Government to fix these evils on a macroscopic nor microscopic scale.  I personally hope to be a Good Person, who contributes to society, who messes up occasionally, who wants to learn, and who has a love of all that is good about my many-times-great-grandparents.
      And all of us have something good in our many-times-whatever ancenstry… and any of us with a brain would escape from a society of wrong.

      •  Right, we can’t blame the liquor store owners who sell to minors. Minors who do not yet have the capacity for judgment and become addicted. Noooo…

      • I think you’re missing the point here. If you’re exposed to alcohol in utero ( in your mother’s uterus) and when you’re born, everyone around you is drinking, and alcohol is a main source of entertainment, really what chance do you have? Try honestly putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute rather than spouting platitudes.

  24. So in other words, it’s the White man’s fault that the Oglala Sioux have no self control. Guess we took thier self respect as well…………… What a crock!

    • I don’t believe you have any idea the power that alcoholism has to steal one’s dignity, self respect, values, morals, hopes and future! This disease has affected an entire culture of people on the reservations….where there is no money, no hope, no prospect of a better life which is quintesential to a healthy lifestyle. If you look back in history it was never any better for the Native Americans. These reservations were created as a way that the ‘white man’ could ease what little of a conscience they had and just hope that no one would state the obvious; that this country was stolen right from under the Native Americans! This is the legacy of America and it is about time for light to be shed on the opression and injustice that continues throughout our fine country on many of the reservations! The only crock would be to continue to live in ignorance and ignore their plight.

    • Yes, we did take thier self respect as well…Remeber it was our Federal policy that they be completely wiped from the land – They managed to survive, however they could.

  25. I live in South Dakota and this article is much more indepth than any I have seen locally. I have also done a lot of work on the reservations and the problems are so deep and sad. Hopefully Whiteclay is shut down soon.

  26. It is always about the money! What happened to the value of human life?
    Our native brothers/sisters are entitled to so much more than they have been given.
    More prenatel care, education and proper housing can be attained if businesses were
    permitted   on the reservation run by tribal government and co- sponsored by the Federal and State. Limit and control liquor sales near reservations, police patrol and severe fines to those who disregard the law,especially those who are benefitting from the alcohol sales.

    • enjoyed ur comment.  still after sooo many years people don’t get what was taken from the native people of this “great” country how mistreated they were. how would people feel if there mothers sisters daughters were raped beaten to death given only rotten food to eat, they would want justice thats all the native americans r looking for 

  27. use some of that federal money to build your own stores, casinos, recreation areas, and tourist traps. that way your people will have something else to do. jobs, increased self-esteem, and just being plain ol’ tuckered out. if that does not work try what the military does, erect a 10 foot high fence and place a gate on the roads leading in/out of the res, with guards.

    • ru gonna give them the money to build fences?!!!, the reservations do not run on the state money read up on how there run b4 u make ignorant comments

        • You truely don’t understand. The Sioux Nation was once an independant & self reliant group of people. The hunted game & gathered wild herbs & fruits. Everyone ate and had shelter. They were doing just fine until white people coveted their land. The whites slaughtered the buffalo. Often taking only the hide & tonuges or just leaving the entire buffalo to rot .Buffalo was a staple of the Sioux diet.  Finally, moving to a reservation was the only option the Sioux had left if they wanted to survive.

  28. Due to this article, I’ve written letters to Annheuser, Coors, and the Governor of Nebraska.  I am mortifies at the statistics here.  While I can understand that people should be responsible for themselves, it is difficult to do when the alcohol is being forced on you.  How is it okay for a person to walk into a liquor store, (or anywhere), and offer themselves in exchange for a beer?  Where is the responsible party here?  Why isn’t SOMEONE saying No?  Why are babies allowed to die?  or live with the results of fetal alcohol syndrome?  It is an abomination.  And the fact that the politicians – not just the Governor – have all received money from the alcohol companies and still let this go on is beyond me. 

    • Why dont you write a letter to god while your at it and ask him why all this bad stuff happens. Its called free will. The bottom line is… you are responsible for yourself whether its booze, drugs or just being a freaking moron. People like you make me laugh. You want to outlaw everything. Its just like the gun issue… if you outlaw guns only criminals will have them. Thanks for spending more of my money for someone having to read your idiotic letters of concern.

      • Are you truely responsible for yourself?  When exactly did that happen? At birth? No human has ever lived more than a few hours without someone else taking responibility for nurturing and careing for them. Even now how long would you survive without the help of others. Even your food was grown by someone else. Did you make your own gun? could you? Likely your car, gas, shoes, shirt and most everything else,including your talk, was provided by someone else. Yet you feel superior. Whats wrong with that picture?   

  29. Wow, how well this was written.  Very interesting.  I find I agree with Attorney White that there
    should be some patroling and more legal issues tackled about the liquor store policies.

  30. Alcohol policy all across America is kind of curious, not
    just adjacent to reservations.  Just about every rehab place in America
    has a bar within walking distance too.  In fact, there has been more than
    one bar where AA medals can be traded for a first drink.  Our inner cities
    also support an above-average number of liquor stores that serve a population
    which all too often also suffers the unfortunate side-effects of high
    unemployment, discrimination, desperation, and intoxication too.

    There are numerous liquor stores which will sell to minors too.  America
    is not alone in that respect either, after all, when was the last time that you
    saw anyone get carded in Mexico?  And in most of the world, the legal
    drinking age is less than 21 too.  In most of Canada the legal age is 18,
    and in Germany it is 16, where the average German adult drinks 4-5 times what
    his American counterpart does.  At least Germany has a strong economy, so
    the average German is drinking in celebration rather than out of self-hatred.

    Even if the lawsuit was successful in shutting-down Whiteclay, it will not
    shut-down many other towns and cities near the reservation which sell alcohol
    to native Americans too.  I am afraid that the profit motive is too
    great.  Even if alcohol sales were banned within 25 miles of every
    reservation in America that action would not stop reservation alcoholism
    either, as the demand is far too high to let a little distance separate the
    customers from their drug of choice. 

    No, the only way to gradually lessen the reason for reservation, and indeed
    inner-city alcoholism too, would be Federal and State policies that target the
    reasons behind the low self-esteem and the need to abuse alcohol or other drugs
    to salve a lifetime of getting walked all over just because of race or national
    origin.  There needs to be increased funding for higher education, and
    there needs to be targeted investment in business and industrial opportunity,
    as well as in bringing the condition of reservation housing stock up to a
    more-modern standard too.

    Instead of forcing reservation residents to drive to Chadron where the local
    Walmart provides little or no reservation employment, perhaps Walmart might
    consider a reservation store?  I’ll agree that such a venture wouldn’t be
    profitable more than a few days per month at first, and it might be that such a
    store would have to be partially subsidized, at least until progress is made on
    other fronts.  But if we don’t take a chance and start somewhere in trying
    to build communities that their residents can be proud of, nothing short of
    outright prohibition will ever put a stop to the desire to drown lives that
    hardly seem worth living, no matter where the situation arises.

    I have always thought that central South Dakota would make an excellent meeting
    spot for western coal and Minnesota iron ore, and while any such venture might
    have to run their own in-house alcohol treatment at first, over time that issue
    would become less of a problem too.  Central South Dakota would also make
    a good place for a wind power investment too.  The issues faced by the
    Sioux are not insurmountable, especially if responsible corporations and
    average Americans alike are willing to take the necessary chances and provide
    opportunities to end oppression, help build self-esteem, and instill the pride in
    community necessary to greatly reduce the need to repeatedly bludgeon oneself
    into a drunken stupor to kill the pain of a lifetime of misery.

    No, the overabundance of abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs on our reservations
    and in many of our inner cities is really just a symptom of a greater problem,
    a problem which we as Americans need to take the necessary steps to put behind
    us.  At one time this country rose up to defeat both Nazi Germany and the
    Japanese empire simultaneously, and more-recently we built over 40,000 miles of
    Interstate highway and even put a man on the Moon too, so we certainly have the
    ability to end the despair, desperation, and injustice faced everyday on our
    reservations and within our inner-cities.  We don’t need a bunch of
    unfortunate people at the bottom just to prove how great some of us are. 
    A little bit of humility and a little bit of empathy would go a long way to
    resolving these issues.

    Even though I am someone of middle-income means, I feel that helping to provide
    access to higher education is one of the best ways that my limited
    contributions can have the greatest long-term positive effect.  Even
    today, living semi-retired on a limited income, I have continued to provide
    what I can to the Oglala Lakota College with the hope that my contributions
    will in some small way build enough self-esteem and confidence to lead even one
    life to a brighter and more-hopeful future, and thereby lead to lasting improvement
    in the greater community too.  I would also recommend the Thurgood
    Marshall College Fund to anyone hoping to improve the lives of our inner-city
    residents too. 

    Sometimes it takes a village to raise a child.  Working together we can
    easily end these issues in our lifetimes.  To not be willing to take a
    chance and try to do so would indeed be a tragedy for all of us.  

    • TruckerMark, Very eloquently stated.
      To my Oglala brothers and sisters, the Great Spirit gave you what you need to survive.  Use it wisely.  Stand with your head held high.  Let the world see your strength and pride.  You were once a great nation.  You can be again.  The Ancestors will assist if you ask.  You can take back what is and has been yours all along.  Take back your strength and pride.  Do not give it over to anyone or anything else.  Teach your children the old ways.  Give them the language and the skills that the Ancestors’ possessed.  They came through many hard times.  You can too.  Stand up for yourselves and your children.  Turn your lives around.

  31. CORRECTION!!!Unsolicited advice to the OGLALA. Get your SHAMAN to send up a prayer that ‘GOD’ WILL, very soon, IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, STRIKE the liquor stores, all four of them, with FIRE and BOLTS OF LIGHTNING.  TOSSED from on high- to BURN the dammned liquor stores.After GOD has BURNT the stores three or four times the insurance companies will get tired of the payouts and stop offering coverage.I hope you have a very active season of NIGHT LIGHTNING in the not too distant future.  Security guards  with shot guns and dogs cant shoot GOD.Clive Ocnacuwenga

    A Like Reply

  32. unsolicited advice to the OGLALA. Get you HSAMAN to send up a prayer that ‘GOD’ WILL, very soon, IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, STRIKE the liquor stores, all four of them, with FIRE and BOLTS OF LIGHTNING.  TOSSED from on high- toBURN the dammned liquor stores.

    After GOD has BURNT the stores three or four times the insurance companies will get tired of the payouts and stop offering coverage.

    I hope you have a vbery active season of NIGH LIGHTNINg in the not too distant future.  Security guards  with shot guns and dogs cant shoo GOD.

    Clive Ocnacuwenga

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