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Whiteclay: Some progress is better than none
The Legislature has kicked the Whiteclay beer can down the road — to Rushville, Neb., 21 miles to the south, where the neared liquor stores are still open.
But that shows at least some movement toward a solution of the alcohol problem that has been plaguing the Oglala Lakota Tribe on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian reservation for generations.
Because alcohol is banned on the reservation, an industry sprang up right across the border in Whiteclay, a town of nine people and four liquor stores that sold the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer in 2015.
The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted not to renew the stores’ liquor licenses last week, citing inadequate law enforcement, a decision that was overturned in district court but the ruling put on hold while the case is appealed.
And, the Nebraska attorney general filed a combined 22 charges against the four stores, including bootlegging and selling liquor after hours. Their attorney says the charges are moot since they no longer have liquor licenses.
Trucks began hauling unsold beer away from the stores Monday, and streets usually full of people loitering and engaging in drunken fights were vacant. Alcohol counselors and mental health workers found their work going begging, but still worried about alcoholics who might try to detox by themselves.
Closing the liquor stores won’t make the alcoholism, crime, fetal alcohol syndrome, drunken driving deaths or other problems go away, and may even make some of them worse.
The legislative task force has its work cut out for it, and finding anything approaching a solution will take determination and creative thinking on both sides of the border.