Talks stall on policing Whiteclay

Published Tuesday April 20, 2004

LINCOLN – Tribal police for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota will not provide law enforcement in the Nebraska border town of Whiteclay if the State of Nebraska will not pay for it, a tribal official said Monday.

Negotiations between the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning on a cross-deputization plan have slowed to a near halt over the issue.

Leon Romero, coordinator for the Judiciary Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, said the council will discuss the issue during its next meeting, April 28 though April 30. He said the general consensus of the committee, the council and Tribal Chairman John Steele is to approve the cross-deputization agreement only on the condition that Nebraska provide $250,000 for the law enforcement services.

That is the amount that the Nebraska State Patrol has said it would cost for it to provide full-time law enforcement in Whiteclay. The unincorporated village just across the border from the Pine Ridge Reservation sells millions of cans of beer each year, mostly to residents of the officially dry reservation.

Bruning said his office is continuing to negotiate over a possible cross-deputization agreement with the tribe, even though negotiations are progressing slowly.

Romero said Nebraska should pay the tribe a share of liquor sales taxes paid in Whiteclay to cover law enforcement costs.

Bruning said that is unlikely to happen. He noted that the Legislature has repeatedly rejected legislation to share Whiteclay tax collections with the tribe.

“I respect their position, but it’s highly unlikely the state is willing to pay money to reach this agreement,” Bruning said. “We think this agreement would make Whiteclay safer.”
Bruning said the state has offered the tribe assistance in seeking federal funds to pay for detoxification and other services.

Romero said the cross-deputization issue is “not dead yet.” He said the tribe would like to meet with Bruning and Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to see if further agreement can be reached.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission has set a hearing for Thursday on whether to reinstate a liquor license to one of the town’s beer-only outlets, the Arrowhead Inn. The commission canceled the license of Arrowhead Inn owner Don Schwarting last month after Schwarting’s felony conviction for selling used cars without a license.

Schwarting’s son, Jason, has asked for a liquor license to be issued in his name, said Hobart Rupe Jr., Liquor Commission executive director. Rupe said the commission examines such requests for replacement licenses carefully to avoid fraud.

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