Vice Squad
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Whiteclay Revisited

Fourteen people live in Whiteclay, Nebraska, it seems. Daily alcohol sales in Whiteclay amount to the equivalent of 10,000 beers: that's a Ruthian per-resident average of more than 714 beers per day.

Of course, it is not the residents who are buying all of those beers. Whiteclay is a creature of prohibition, in this case, the prohibition of alcohol sales within the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. There are about 20,000 folks living on the reservation, and the majority of those who are in the labor force are unemployed. The alcohol problems on the reservation are staggering.

Activists have been trying for years to close the beer sellers of Whiteclay; last month, demonstrators blockaded the road linking the reservation with the village. But the alcohol continues to flow into the reservation, and it is far from certain that if Whiteclay were to disappear tomorrow, the situation would improve very much.

All of the information above is drawn from this recent story in USA Today. But it sounded sadly familiar to me, and sure enough, Vice Squad linked to a rather similar story on February 12, 2004. A quick comparison indicates that since that time, there has been a slight fall in the number of Whiteclay residents, a rise in the population on the reservation, and a rise in alcohol sales in the village.

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