The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation sits on the border of South Dakota and Nebraska. The reservation is “dry.” Not only are alcohol sales against the law, but just the possession of it, in your car or home can result in a fine. Just 200 feet to the south of the reservation sits the community of Whiteclay, in Nebraska. Whiteclay has a population of 14. In this unincorporated village sits four off-sale liquor stores. On the average over 11,000 cans of beer are sold each day, mostly to Indian clientele. Most of these people walk from Whiteclay, spending days there – drinking. Since all sales are off-sales, everyone is drinking illegally. In deserted buildings are old mattresses to sleep on, but at times, some pass out in front of stores or right on the road.
The Sioux Tribal government has asked the state of Nebraska to step in and halt sales of alcohol in Whiteclay, but the state seems unwilling to help. The state collects a quarter of a million dollars a year in sales and liquor taxes from the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay, with no money being returned to the Lakota people to deal with the problems alcohol presents on the reservation.
These liquor stores have been fined for after hour sales, selling to minors, and selling alcohol on credit. Alcoholism on the reservation is at 80%, with 53% living below the poverty line. Unemployment stands at 33% and the dropout rate is at 31%. Close to a quarter of the people have no phone or plumbing. If this weren’t going on in our own backyard, the United Nations would have all sorts of world relief programs in effect.
"The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross, the place is holy." Black Elk from 'Black Elk Speaks'
Finding The Red Road
A Nation must follow the red road,
the road of wisdom and strength.
A road scarred by the massacre,
at Wounded Knee, breaking the sacred hoop.
A heritage must be remembered.
Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull,
Red Cloud and Black Elk,
walked this road,
believed in this road.
The road of the good,
“on it shall your nation walk.”
Black Elk, a wise man, a visionary,
said the seventh generation,
shall restore the hoop,
or a Nation will die.
This generation is upon us,
confused and lost, others dead,
due to Wasichus firewater.
They travel the path of the black road,
the road of destruction.
They hear and see ghosts…
ghosts of Whiteclay.
Lives cut short, we stand and watch.
The Sioux Nation struggles,
for a past they need to find.
Poverty, addiction, unemployment…
a future that’s hard to understand.
A Nation searching, for the old ways,
the spiritual and cultural practices,
of their ancestors.
Pow Wows attract the old,
and now… the next generation!
Sun Dances bring renewal,
faith, hope, and pride!
Once again, finding pride,
in being a member of,
The Great Sioux Nation.
They will follow the red road,
forgetting the black road,
and destroying Whiteclay.
Pray to Grandfather…
to restore the sacred hoop…