‘New bunch’ faces old problems

Published Tuesday December 15, 2009
By the Journal Editorial Board

A “whole new bunch” of Nebraska lawmakers are ready to go where lawmakers before them have gone, attempted and failed to solve the alcohol issues arising from the location between the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Whiteclay, Nebr.

State Sen. Russ Karpisek, a Nebraska legislator leading a committee studying Whiteclay, told representatives from Pine Ridge that it was time to get beyond the skepticism of the past and look to a new future.

“We weren’t here at those other times,” he said of past failures. “We’re a whole new bunch of senators.”

It’s a whole new bunch of senators inheriting an age-old problem.

We appreciate Nebraska’s efforts to solve the problem shared by Whiteclay and Pine Ridge, but we fear a new generation of lawmakers will find what their predecessors have learned over the years: the solution to the problem at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is much deeper than the location it shares with Whiteclay.

After attempts in the past to stop or regulate the sales at Whiteclay, it appears a different solution is being proposed: Tap into the lucrative beer market at the small Nebraska town’s four stores and generate the revenue for a detox center in the area.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has a near insurmountable problem with alcoholism on the reservation. Even though alcohol is banned on Pine Ridge, the four stores in Whiteclay collectively sell about 4 million cans of beer each year – most of which is for Pine Ridge.

While it’s clear a solution to this tragedy is desperately needed, we wonder if taxing alcohol sales to treat the very people generating the tax revenue is really the best solution?

The problem on Pine Ridge doesn’t start at Whiteclay, Nebr., nor can it be solved there. The problems at Pine Ridge go much deeper than four stores across the border.

Taxing Nebraska beer sellers could result in a detox center for alcoholics near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. But addressing a symptom of the real problems on Pine Ridge only puts a Band Aid over an increasingly hard to manage open wound.

We fear even this new bunch of Nebraska legislators will soon realize that’s the harsh reality in addressing this near-insurmountable problem on the Pine Ridge reservation in neighboring South Dakota.

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