written by: David Fuxa, Creighton University ’13
People are confronted with moral issues on almost a daily basis; please read on to discover another that the Ignatian Family ought to be aware of and responding to: the sale of beer to Native Americans with no legal place to consume it.
At first glance Whiteclay, Nebraska looks like any small midwestern rural town. Having only 14 residents, there isn’t much to it, until you discover Whiteclay’s biggest export: alcohol.
Despite its size, Whiteclay has four off-sale liquor stores that sell an average of 12,000 cans of beer every day, primarily to the Native Americans of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The location of Whiteclay is important. It sits perched on the South Dakota border about an hour and a half south east of Rapid City, South Dakota. On the South Dakota side of the border lies the Pine Ridge Reservation. Pine Ridge is about the size of Connecticut and home to about 40,000 residents. This reservation is one of the poorest places in the United States, with 85% unemployment, a poverty rate of above 48%, and a per capita income of $9,728 per year.1 Despite being illegal in Pine Ridge, alcohol plays a significant role. 1 in 4 children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome and alcoholism rates are estimated to be as high as 80% in adults.
There are many complex factors at play in this situation, but the high volume alcohol sales at Whiteclay are adding to the problem. This was reaffirmed by Judge John M Gerrard when he wrote: “There is, in fact, little question that alcohol sold in Whiteclay contributes significantly to tragic conditions on the reservation,” after he dismissed a lawsuit the tribe filed against beer companies and stores because the federal court did not have jurisdiction.
Additionally, there is no permanent law enforcement present in Whiteclay, which has resulted in selling to minors and intoxicated persons and allegations of selling to bootleggers, in exchange for food stamps, and for sex trafficking.
Having seen the devastation in Whiteclay, students at Creighton University have joined forces with other groups in the state by forming the Whiteclay Awareness group. The Whiteclay Awareness organization is determined to end the unethical and illegal sales taking place in Whiteclay. For the past four years we focused on the political and legislative side of the issue, to no avail. This January we turned our focus to Anheuser Busch, the main supplier of alcohol at Whiteclay, and demanded that they play a part in resolving this tragedy.
We announced a boycott on Anheuser Busch, with the motto “Boycott Bud, Support Pine Ridge.”
We request that Anheuser Busch close down the four liquor stores in Whiteclay and construct an efficient alcohol rehabilitation center on the reservation.
We want the boycott to address both sides of the problem, the immoral sale of alcohol and the destruction it causes to the reservation. Anheuser Busch is the focus of our boycott because they sell almost 80% of the alcohol in Whiteclay and they have the power and capacity to comply with these requests.
Supporting the boycott is simple. Please visit: http://whiteclayboycott.blogspot.com/ There you will find our boycott page and a link to our change.org petition. Please sign the petition to show your support for the boycott. We then encourage that you share the link with your friends and family and encourage them to join the boycott.
We believe that everyone should be aware of this issue. All citizens benefit from the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay through federal tax revenue.
Being a senior at a Jesuit School, I would like to see the Ignatian network supporting this issue. If you are a student or you could recommend a contact at a school or university please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We think this issue deserves national attention and would like to impact as many individuals as possible.
Additionally, please send your prayers for those on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Contact us with any questions or comments.
President, Whiteclay Awareness
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
1 “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee,” National Geographic, August 2012.