A huge influx of alcohol from the small Nebraska town of Whiteclay into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation remains a flashpoint at the Nebraska-South Dakota border after a very brief meeting at the State Capitol.
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer accuses Gov. Dave Heineman of having no interest in resolving the liquor problem at Whiteclay. The two met at the Capitol, briefly.
“After about two minutes of this, I had to walk out. I said, ‘The meeting’s over.’ I left,” Brewer tells reporters in Lincoln.
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office says Heineman set aside one hour to meet with Brewer. Brewer claims the governor was upset with him and uninterested in finding a solution to the problem.
Brewer says he leaves Lincoln without help to stem the flow of alcohol into his reservation.
“And I’m just saddened that I have to go back to South Dakota and let our people know that we’re not going to get any help from the state of Nebraska on this issue,” Brewer says.
The Pine Ridge Reservation, with a population of about 50,000, bans alcohol. Yet, liquor seems to easily make its way across the border from the small town of Whiteclay in Nebraska to the reservation in South Dakota. It has been estimated that the equivalent of four million cans of beer a year are sold at the four liquor stores in White Clay.
A federal lawsuit filed early last year asked for $500 million to offset the crippling poverty and alcoholism among the Lakota people it alleges is the result of the flow of beer across the state line. The lawsuit named Anheuser-Busch InBev, Miller Brewing, Molson Coors and Pabst Brewing Company, among others. It also named beer distributors as well as the Arrowhead Inn, D&S Pioneer Service, Jumping Eagle Inn and State Line Liquor of Whiteclay.
U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed the lawsuit in October of 2012, ruling federal court did not have jurisdiction in the dispute.
Reporters asked Gov. Heineman about the meeting earlier in the day during a Capitol news conference. Heineman said few options are available to him to help.
“Alcohol is a legal product. As long as the law is followed, we have no ability to shut down those places in Whiteclay unless they violated the law,” Heineman stated.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]