Activists Encourage Nebraska Senator's Life-Saving Proposal, Legislation to Follow in 2017 - 10/26/16

by Michael Scippa

roadsign welcoming you to Whiteclay NBAlcohol Justice continues to provide media and strategic organizing support to the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for their campaign to shut down the liquor stores across the border in Whiteclay, Nebraska.

This past summer, Alcohol Justice initiated a successful Action Alert that generated over 635 letters to Nebraska State leaders asking them to support the work of State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks who declared that Whiteclay was a public health disaster for alcohol-related harm. Documented outcomes of liquor sales in the tiny town include widespread homelessness, alcoholism, sex trafficking, and alarming rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Senator Pansing Brooks is proposing legislation to deal with the illegal and illicit activity taking place at Whiteclay.

On October 11, 2016 the General Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Legislature heard testimony on LR567—an interim study introduced by Senator Brooks designed to examine and review the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay and the need for additional funding for law enforcement. Alcohol Justice drove three activists from Pine Ridge to participate in the hearing: Olowan Thunderhawk Martinez, Wambliwin Red Cloud, and former Tribal President Bryan Brewer. Alcohol Justice Board member Sonny Skyhawk also attended and testified, as did Alcohol Justice Advocacy Director Jorge Castillo.

Prior to the hearing all the people involved had a meeting with Senator Brooks. A strong and cordial relationship was established between Senator Brooks and the Pine Ridge activists. The group of participants agreed to continue to work together with the Senator to craft legislation next year. The hearing received extensive radio, TV, print and onlinescreencap of a tv broadcast showing Sonny Skyhawk testifying media coverage

Earlier in the month, activist Olowan Thunderhawk Martinez was extradited to Nebraska to face allegations of criminal misconduct related to a Women's Day of Peace Rally at Whiteclay a few years ago. From all accounts it appears to be an attempt to criminalize her activism in order to neutralize the ongoing efforts to address the problems in the area. Alcohol Justice agreed to pay her bail and to assist with her attorney fees. As it turned out, being on bail allowed her to freely move in Nebraska and to testify at the hearing. Her extradition to Nebraska brought national media attention to her case and to the problems at Whiteclay.

In addition to legislation being proposed for 2017, due to a complete lack of enforcement capability in Whiteclay, the four liquor stores in the cross-hairs of controversy for their illegal practices will be forced by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to re-apply for their licenses to operate. Lack of law enforcement is grounds for denial of issuing alcohol licenses in the state.

Please TAKE ACTION to send your message of encouragement and support to Nebraska State leaders.