'Yes' votes lead, but Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol referendum is too close to call - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 11:35 pm
'Yes' votes lead, but Pine Ridge Reservation alcohol referendum is too close to call

LINCOLN — A referendum to allow alcohol sales on the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota was leading in unofficial election returns Tuesday.

However, the outcome won’t be known for a couple of days due to the high number of challenged ballots in the hand-counted election.

The unofficial count late Tuesday was 1,645 in favor of allowing alcohol sales and 1,494 opposed.

But Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer said it may take a couple of days to determine if 438 challenged votes were cast by qualified voters — registered tribal members who live on the reservation.

“I’ve never seen the challenged votes overturn an election yet, but there’s so many, it might,” Brewer said.

The election split the tribe and spawned protests at some polling places Tuesday.

Opponents maintain that allowing liquor sales on the reservation will exacerbate already epidemic problems with alcohol. Advocates said alcohol sales would generate much-needed funds for the tribe to combat a problem that affects 80 percent of its families.

If liquor sales are allowed, it promises to cut into alcohol profits at the notorious town of Whiteclay, Neb., which sits just across the border from the officially dry reservation. Four stores there sells 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly to residents of the reservation.

Brewer opposes alcohol sales on the reservation. He said allowing them will only exacerbate alcohol-related problems among his people.

“There’s other ways to generate money,” Brewer said. “I hate that it’s alcohol. To me, it’s blood money.”

The Pine Ridge is the only reservation in South Dakota that bans liquor.

Alcohol was legalized for two months back in the 1970s, but the experiment ended quickly. In 2004, the tribal council talked of scheduling a vote to end prohibition, but then backed off.

Proponents say profits and taxes from liquor sales on the Pine Ridge will generate money for the cash-strapped tribe to build education, detoxification and treatment centers.

Currently, there is one detox center with six beds on the reservation, which has 50,000 people.

“That is not meeting our needs. We need more money,” Brewer said.

On and off for years, there’s been talk of allowing liquor sales to increase revenue for the tribe and end the flow of traffic to the beer stores in Whiteclay. Another advantage: it might end bootlegging of liquor on the reservation.

Federal law bans the sale of alcohol on American Indian reservations unless the tribal council allows it.

Vic Clarke, a grocery store owner in Whiteclay, said that if the tribe does it right, with proper management, liquor sales at its casino and tribal stores could provide much-needed jobs and revenue, and inspire economic development.

But, Clarke predicted, it won’t close the Whiteclay beer stores because they sell cheaper cigarettes than available on the reservation and cash hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks because there are no banks on the reservation.

“They do other things than sell beer,” he said. “The beer stores will survive. Yes, it will cost them a little bit of business, but they’ll survive.”

The operator of a Christian soup kitchen in Whiteclay that ministers to the estimated 45 street people in town said legalizing alcohol on the reservation might force the tribe to confront its liquor woes.

“I think they’ll have to deal with it up front, instead of blaming the evil, wicked white men,” said Bruce Bonfleur, who operates the Lakota Hope center. “Now it’s up to us if we’re going to drink or not.’’

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Contact the writer: Paul Hammel

paul.hammel@owh.com    |   402-473-9584    |  

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues and helps coordinate the same.

More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
< >
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »