The battle over alcohol stores in tiny Whiteclay, Neb., has been going on for decades. Home to roughly about a dozen people, the town has been called a “rural skid row.” Images of Lakota people openly drinking in town or staggering drunk on its streets are commonplace.
But now, that easy access to alcohol is gone.
The state liquor board has shut down Whiteclay’s four controversial liquor stores. Together, the stores sold 4 million cans of beer every year — mostly to residents of the adjacent Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which bans alcohol. The store owners are appealing the action by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, but that could take months.
Andrew Iron Shell sees the closures as a huge step forward for residents of the bordering reservation, where it’s estimated that 50 percent of the adult population struggles with alcohol abuse.
“It’s a victory for the community,” says Iron Shell, who has several years of sobriety under his belt. He works for a Lakota non-profit focusing on reconnecting tribal members with their culture.
“It’s been a hard-fought battle on many fronts,” he says. “But, I also think it’s an opportunity to bring communities together. To bring people with the same value system about life and about wellness and creating…