Nebraska senators say more needs to be done at Whiteclay

Published Thursday June 9, 2005

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Fifteen state senators signed a letter Thursday addressed to the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, saying that the state of Nebraska needs to do more to address alcohol problems in the border town of Whiteclay.

The letter was to be delivered to tribal leaders at a march Saturday starting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and ending in Whiteclay, said Nebraskans for Peace President Mark Vasina.
The Sheridan County town has just 14 residents and three stores that sell thousands of cans of beer each week to residents of the nearby reservation.

Nebraskans for Peace and others have been trying for years to pass laws in the Nebraska Legislature that would either prohibit alcohol sales in Whiteclay or make it easier for the state Liquor Control Commission to restrict businesses.

In the letter, the Nebraska lawmakers said individuals who purchase and consume alcohol in Whiteclay must take responsibility for their actions.

“We also recognize the state of Nebraska’s contribution to the misery caused in Whiteclay by its licensing of alcohol sales within 200 feet of a reservation which allows neither the sale nor consumption of alcoholic beverages upon its lands,” senators said in the letter.

The senators said they recognized the need for an effective state public policy to successfully address the problems there, although they didn’t mention any specific plan.

Money earmarked this year for additional undercover compliance checks by the Nebraska State Patrol is a good start, they said, as is the federal funding allowing for cross-deputization.

Activists hope a greater police presence will result in a crackdown on what they say are numerous violations, including public intoxication.

The cross-deputization plan was made possible after U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., secured $100,000 in federal funding to pay for it.

Last week tribal leaders signed a tentative agreement allowing tribal police to help patrol the streets of Whiteclay.

Alcohol is banned on the 5,000-square-mile reservation, home to 15,000 Oglala Sioux. The reservation has one of the nation’s highest alcoholism-related mortality rates.

Vasina said he expected about 300 people at the march, which is timed to recognize the sixth anniversary of the unsolved killings of two American Indians in the area.

Senators who signed the letter come from across Nebraska, including Lincoln, Omaha, Grand Island, Decatur and Plattsmouth.

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