State, tribal leaders meet to talk about Whiteclay

Published Friday January 29, 2010

A host of state officials flew to western Nebraska on Friday to meet with Oglala Sioux tribal leaders to explore solutions to massive alcohol sales at Whiteclay.

“This is just kind of another beginning,” Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber said Thursday. “We’re proving that we’re serious about doing something.”

Officials who traveled to Gordon were Gov. Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Patrol Superintendent Bryan Tuma and Sens. Karpisek, LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth and Colby Coash of Lincoln.

In Gordon, they met with Oglala Sioux President Theresa Two Bulls and other tribal administrators.

The meeting was part of a coordinated effort by state leaders to address alcohol sales in Whiteclay, where four beer stores sold more than 4.2 million 12-ounce cans of beer in 2008.

Activists and some state senators have long called for closing the stores, which mostly sell to Oglala Sioux from the nearby dry Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota.

Last week, Karpisek and Louden introduced bills in the Legislature that would pay for substance abuse treatment, economic development, health care and law enforcement for Native people.

Jen Rae Hein, the governor’s spokeswoman, said the tribe requested Friday’s meeting. She described it as a “listening session,” but she couldn’t offer further details on what state and tribal officials talked about.

Karpisek said getting tribal involvement in any proposed solutions to alcohol sales in Whiteclay was essential.

“We want their input and opinion (on solutions),” he said. “Hopefully, they can grab ahold and make it their own.”

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