Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks Visits Whiteclay, NE
The following article was sent out in a June newsletter by State Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks.
One of the six Interim Studies that I introduced will examine and review the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay, Nebraska and the effects that these sales have on the surrounding Native American population and the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. As you know, there has been enormous controversy surrounding Whiteclay. Whiteclay is a non-incorporated town with 14 residents which has four beer stores located 200 yards south of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Each year, nearly 4 million cans of high alcohol content beer are sold at Whiteclay. Malt liquors are the most popular products. A 25 ounce can of these products contains 8-10% alcohol and has the alcohol equivalent of 2-3 regular beers. These products are sold for just $1.75 a can. Public drunkenness, violence, and human trafficking are rampant problems. The goal of the Interim Study is to develop recommendations for what should be done to address the many issues arising from alcohol sales in Whiteclay and to seek the input of the State-Tribal Relations Committee in finding a way to solve these issues.
This month, in conjunction with my Interim Study, I took a trip to Whiteclay, Nebraska with my new Legislative Aide, Chris Triebsch. I was invited to attend a conference on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which has become a public health crisis in the area due to the prevalence of alcohol abuse. In fact, 1 in 4 babies on the Pine Ridge Reservation is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a birth defect caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Its developmental and neurological effects are irreversible.
In addition, I toured the town with community leaders including Pine Ridge’s President, Bryan Brewer, and Robert Young Dog. In my entire life, I have never seen the depth of poverty, degradation and inhumane treatment of a people as I saw in our beloved Nebraska at Whiteclay. I was also alarmed by stories of human trafficking. Alcohol in exchange for sex is not uncommon in Whiteclay. I spoke to individuals with firsthand knowledge of these activities.
As I reflect on my trip, I know there is no magic bullet to solve the issues that plague the Lakota people. But it is clear that Whiteclay is a public health emergency that demands action. Our state is suing Colorado for the impact to Nebraska of their marijuana laws across our border while our liquor laws are literally causing the annihilation of a people across another border.
As my interim study moves forward, we are gathering information and examining concrete solutions to address the issues. I will have more to share with you as we move forward. In the meantime, I urge you to get involved. We are going to need each of you.