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April 28, 2017 10:33 PM

'A New Day' - Monday On Pine Ridge

Sioux Falls, SD

For years, Whiteclay, Nebraska has sold alcohol to Native Americans from the dry Pine Ridge reservation. After years of fighting for a change, there is a small victory tonight, with sales soon coming to an end- at least temporarily.

Nebraska's Liquor Control Commission recently voted to not renew the stores' licenses. On Thursday, a judge overruled that decision, but Nebraska's Attorney General had the final say.

This coming Monday, the four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, right across the border from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, will not be open. 

"Monday morning, people will awake in a drier Pine Ridge, and a new day," Matt Walz with Keystone Treatment Center said.

Matt Walz pledges support to the Oglala Lakota people.

"We at Keystone stand with the Oglala Lakota people. We have for many years, we'll continue to stand with them," Walz said. "Most of them believe that these beer stores in Whiteclay are harmful to their community."

But when asked if the latest developments make him happy, he turns the focus back to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

"I think that because the Whiteclay beer stores will be closed, as of Monday, brings a lot of people a sense of relief," Walz said. "I think it offers a lot of hope to the people of Pine Ridge."

What happens next will have the attention of millions of people across the country.

"There's a lot of people working behind the scenes, to ensure that people's needs are met on Monday, when Pine Ridge becomes a much drier place," Walz said. "And so we have counselors coming in, chemical dependency counselors that can do assessments, referrals to treatment and detox services, and counseling."

However, it's not clear how long the four controversial beer stores in Whiteclay won't be selling. 

"I think it's anybody's guess, what's going to happen in the legal system," Walz said. "We've got a lot of very strong interests, and a lot of people that really care about this issue."

While Whiteclay has less than a dozen residents, the stores sold the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer in 2015 alone. A majority of that is sold to people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Even though alcohol is banned there, the reservation still struggles with fetal alcoholism and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the Western Hemisphere.

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