Testimony at a legislative hearing on alcohol sales in Whiteclay points to the need for more of a police presence there.
State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln says you can close down the four liquor stores in that tiny community, if they are acting illegally.
She says more officers are needed to monitor the situation to see if the law is being broken.
“There’s no way that 3.4 million cans of beer are being sold to the 10 to 20 natives who are sitting and lying on the streets of Whiteclay,” Pansing Brooks tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And I’ll tell you that we would never allow that in Lincoln, in Chadron, in Scottsbluff, in Omaha – this just would not be happening.”
One in four babies born on the reservation suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, according to Pansing Brooks, while rates of alcoholism and teen suicides there are well above the national average.
Sheridan County commissioners testified that there is a need for more officers, because the few sheriff’s deputies on patrol at any given time cannot devote the time needed in Whiteclay.
“That’s one thing and I felt really positive that that came out in the hearing,” Pansing Brooks says. “The next thing we need to do is to start looking at what is possible as far as the public health crisis up there.”
The University of Nebraska Medical Center wants to help meet the clinical needs of area people through telehealth technology.
Another positive outcome, according to Pansing Brooks.
“We have been complicit in this degradation, in the predatory sales to the people of Pine Ridge, and it’s a human tragedy and a moral tragedy and a public health tragedy, and we need to reverse our behavior.”