Until just last year, Whiteclay, Nebraska had one liquor store for every three residents. This tiny farmland community had been selling alcohol for more than 100 years to the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
In many ways, Whiteclay seemed to only exist because of its liquor stores. For years, community advocates like Frank LaMere fought to end alcohol sales in Whiteclay, but as is often the case, the alcohol industry was a powerful adversary.
The complicated history of these two communities, which dates back to the 1880s, was captured during a yearlong effort by journalism students who set out to explore the connection between the liquor stores of Whiteclay and the many problems at the reservation—problems that stemmed from high alcohol use, including alcoholism, suicide, infant mortality, fetal alcohol syndrome, and crime.
Ultimately, Whiteclay’s liquor stores closed – all were denied renewal of their licenses in 2016.
The story of how Whiteclay’s policies changed is a fascinating one, and the student journalists’ stories earned them the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism grand prize.
The advocates, stories, and history behind this ultimate victory have been captured in a stunning web site, “The Wounds of WhiteClay: Nebraska’s Shameful Legacy.” We encourage you to visit the site and learn more about this extraordinary community and the committed group of advocates who went against the alcohol industry—and won.
We know there are countless more communities like Whiteclay, so when Texans Standing Tall learned of its story, we knew we had to share it with you.