Students target Whiteclay liquor sales

Published Monday March 2, 2009

Ian Langin and his classmates would have been about 8 years old when two Pine Ridge Indian Reservation members were killed in Whiteclay, Neb.

The unsolved killings brought national attention to the village of 14 that is notorious for supplying alcohol to residents of the reservation just across the South Dakota border. Alcoholism is rampant, although possessing alcohol is illegal on the reservation.

Ten years later, Langin and other Omaha Creighton Prep students are trying to raise awareness of the alcoholism and stop the liquor sales in Whiteclay.

He and seven other students learned about Whiteclay last semester in a class that focuses on Catholic social justice teachings.

The lessons struck a chord with the students, instructor Kathy O’Keefe said.

“It was appalling and shocking for all of us,” Langin said Sunday evening at a prayer rally for the students’ Solidarity group, which has taken on the Whiteclay alcohol sales initiative. About 85 people attended, O’Keefe said.

The teens bring new weapons to an old fight. Cameron Popp created a video that links the reservation’s problems to the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890.

The group uses multiple forms of computer technology to spread Popp’s video message.

They have already captured hundreds in their audience, the teens said.

“I just wish that everyone in Nebraska could see that video,” Popp said.

Brian Nevole crafted a letter that the group is sending to every Catholic member of the Nebraska Legislature, emphasizing the church’s social justice teachings.

The group also is asking President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to re-establish a 50-mile buffer zone around the reservation where liquor sales would be illegal.

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