Alcohol's staggering public health impact on the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota shouldn't be ignored by anyone — not liquor industry members, lobbyists or alcohol regulators.
That's why the Oklahoma ABLE Commission hosted a discussion of “The Battle for Whiteclay,” a documentary about the affect of alcohol sales from across the state border of Pine Ridge in Whiteclay, Neb., during the north/south regional conference of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, being held this week at the Cox Convention Center.
Whiteclay has less than a dozen residents but four convenience stores that sell 13,000 cans of beer a day — more than 4 million per year, ABLE attorney John Maisch cited during an introduction of the panel Monday morning. Within walking distance is Pine Ridge, which has remained dry since the 1970s.
Despite federal law prohibiting alcohol consumption or sales on the reservation, the residents there clearly demonstrate the society ills of alcohol abuse. More than 60 percent of adults are alcoholic. One in four children is born with some degree of fetal alcohol syndrome. Life expectancy is lower than in Haiti. Infant mortality is 300 percent higher than anywhere in the U.S. and youth suicide is 150 percent higher.
Omaha attorney Tom White, who represents the tribe in a federal lawsuit filed in February against the convenience stores, Anheuser-Busch and several other large American brewing companies, participated in the panel Monday.
A federal judge on Monday dismissed White's case saying it belonged in state court.
“I drink beer. I enjoy beer. But anybody that looks at that has to agree it's genocide. They are wiping out a population,” White said. Also on the panel were documentary filmmaker Mark Vasina, who produced and directed “The Battle for Whiteclay,” and Indian Activist Frank LaMere.
If you go
— College of Education auditorium.