LINCOLN — Two years after the notorious beer stores in Whiteclay were shut down, activists will outline their vision to create a treatment center for fetal alcohol syndrome in the northwest Nebraska village.
Borrowing advice from experts in the field from Michigan to Alaska, promoters are envisioning a first-of-its-kind center that will not only diagnose and assess the severity of damage from prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs, but lay out, and help families follow, a treatment plan.
Boesem, who will be director of the proposed center, said the goal is to break the cycle of fetal alcohol syndrome that has extended for five generations in the Whiteclay-Pine Ridge area. Some level of fetal alcohol syndrome impacts as many as one in four children born on the reservation — 25 times the national rate.
She and others will discuss progress on the center on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at a “Children of Whiteclay” event at Nebraska Wesleyan University’s Olin Hall in Lincoln. A possible location for the center in Whiteclay is being pursued, Boesem said. A fundraising goal has yet to be established.
Before the beer stores closed in Whiteclay, they sold the equivalent of 3.5 million cans of beer a year. Almost every sale went to residents of the officially dry Pine Ridge Reservation, leading to accusations that Whiteclay, and the State of Nebraska, were complicit in the alcohol-related problems of the impoverished reservation.
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Stacy Stewart, seated, and Wayne Swift Bird of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, wait in Whiteclay, Nebraska, for a ride to Rushville to buy alcohol. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Swift Bird said.
Stacy Stewart, left, and Wayne Swift Bird of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, wait for a ride to Rushville, Nebraska, to buy alcohol. Beer sales ended in Whiteclay, Nebraska, one year ago.
Billy Wilson, left, scans items for Caroline Richards of Allen, South Dakota, at White Clay Grocery.
A man reaches for items in a dumpster outside Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Traffic flows along Nebraska Highway 87 through Whiteclay, Nebraska, last week. In the year since beer sales ended in Whiteclay, a new Family Dollar store opened.
Stacy Stewart, front, and Wayne Swift Bird of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, wait for a ride to Rushville, Nebraska, to buy alcohol.
Rose Nelson makes a purchase from Billy Wilson at White Clay Grocery.
A mix of trash, including beer cans, water bottles and clothing, mixes with dirt on the side of the Nebraska Highway 87 in Whiteclay.
Abram Neumann is the interim executive director of the Lakota Hope Center in Whiteclay.
Graffiti on the side of a building in Whiteclay reads in part, “Do not buy alcohol from this town!”
Former bar Arrowhead Inn remains closed as a new Family Dollar store, left, is now open.
A Pepsi delivery truck travels through in Whiteclay last week.
Wayne Swift Bird of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, waits for a ride to Rushville, Nebraska, to buy alcohol.
The sign letting people know they've entered Whiteclay.
Rushville Mayor Chris Heiser said customers from the reservation are buying vodka and other hard liquor rather than beer and are forced to drive farther up a narrow highway to get it.
A customer enters a Family Dollar store that opened late last year and draws a steady clientele.
Lance Moss owns White Clay Grocery.
David Mills sits outside Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
David Mills, left, and Adam Red Cloud sit outside Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
A beer can in the grass along the side of Nebraska Highway 87 leading into Whiteclay. The ditches of the highway between Rushville and Whiteclay are littered with beer cans, water bottles and other trash.
Jordan Robinson, left, peels bananas as store owner Lance Moss slices roast beef at White Clay Grocery.
The street is empty aside from passing traffic in Whiteclay, Nebraska, last week.