Advocating for Whiteclay
Omaha – A handful of Grace Abbott School of Social Work students have taken on the challenge of advocating for change in the unincorporated village of Whiteclay, Nebraska; population 12. In Spring 2015 Patty Carlson, instructor and BSSW coordinator for the Grace Abbott School of Social Work, received a grant from The Civic Participation Project to bring a documentary, “Sober Indian/Dangerous Indian” to UNO on October 7, 2015. Students in her Social Work Practice III course helped to organize the showing, which drew in over 250 people. The filmmaker, John Maisch, Native American activist, Frank Lamere, and Robert Youngdog profiled in the documentary, held a Q&A after the showing.
The following week, Carlson and six social work students--Carly Conrad, Taylor Givens, Yvonne Miller, Heather Moore, Maggie Peterson, and Emily Schreiner--attended the Whiteclay Leadership Summit in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where they learned about the history between Whiteclay and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the fight to address the adverse health impacts cause by Whiteclay’s alcohol sales.
A significant part of Whiteclay's economy is based on alcohol sales to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, located two miles north across the border in South Dakota, where alcohol consumption and possession is prohibited. This has been a constant political issue in the region. Whiteclay sells the equivalent of nearly 4 million cans of beer each year. Alcoholism rates on the Reservation are estimated at upward of 80%; and other alcohol-related problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and domestic abuse are rampant.
The students also had the opportunity to participate in a 16-mile memorial walk from Wounded Knee to Whiteclay. These social work students later presented to faculty and peers on their emotional experience while in Pine Ridge and Whiteclay. All agreed that it was a life changing experience.
They were also among a group of concerned citizens that were invited and met with the Nebraska First Lady, Suzanne Shore, to discuss the conditions in Whiteclay. She urged the group to keep pushing and talking to state senators and other officials about the issues.
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