Nebraska calls this a village: two blocks, one dusty road and six or so buildings, squat and cheap, like the set of a spaghetti western.Just over the South Dakota border, the Oglala Lakota Sioux call this place something else.Nebraska flouts laws against open drinking, public drunkenness and selling alcohol to inebriates, not to mention ignoring crime in White Clay, they say.For months, the activists have organized increasingly confrontational blockades of beer trucks, claiming a small victory when one beer distributor decided last month to stop deliveries to White Clay.They call it the root of all the pain, suffering and damnation endured on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Plopped a minute away from Pine Ridge, where alcohol is banned, White Clay provides tribal members a way to buy beer, drink, and too often, keep drinking.On any day in White Clay (official pop.: 10), dozens of tribal members in zombie states of drunk stumble around the road, prop themselves against the homely buildings, lie passed out by piles of junk on the ground.(The reservation has only one treatment center, with seven beds.) They also argue that a repeal would free up the tribal police force, jails and courts.
No bars exist here, but the four off-sale package stores in White Clay, comprising most of its businesses, move 13,000 cans of beer and malt liquor a day.Many Oglalas are also against legalizing alcohol, introduced to the Indians by the Europeans, on principle.They call it a form of genocide, counter-productive to “walking the red road” to peace and prosperity.Traditionalists are furious that the question has even come to a vote.The tribal president, Bryan Brewer, who has been arrested while participating in blockades of White Clay beer distributors, says money from alcohol sales would be “blood money.”“This is a very complex problem,” Brewer said.