Midland Lutheran to screen documentary on Whiteclay controversy

Published Monday May 4, 2009

Midland Lutheran College will show the documentary film “The Battle for Whiteclay” Thursday, May 14, at 6 p.m. in the college’s Olson Student Center.

The screening will be followed by a question and answer period with Native American activist Frank LaMere and filmmaker Mark Vasina.

The film centers on the Nebraska border town of Whiteclay, right on the edge of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the battle Native American activists have waged over the town’s main commerce: alcohol.

Whiteclay, an unincorporated village of 14 people, has four off-sale beer stores licensed by the state of Nebraska which sell the equivalent of 4.5 million 12-ounce cans of beer annually (12,500 cans per day), mostly to Oglala tribe members living on the Pine Ridge.

Whiteclay lies merely 200 feet from the official reservation border, and less than 2 miles from the center of Pine Ridge, S.D., the largest town on the reservation.

Sale and possession of alcoholic beverages on the Pine Ridge is prohibited under tribal law. Except for a brief experiment with on-reservation liquor sales in the early 1970s, this prohibition has been in effect since the reservation lands were created.

The film screening is free and open to the public. The film is part of Midland Lutheran College’s upcoming film festival, put on by the Sociology Department and Dr. William Staley. A second screening has been scheduled for Nov. 18 at the college.

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