Nebraska: Near Reservation, 7 Cans of Beer Sold a Minute

Nebraska: Near Reservation, 7 Cans of Beer Sold a Minute
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Whiteclay, Neb., has 12 residents and four liquor stores. They have sold over 42 million cans of beer in the last decade – seven every minute of every day - mainly to Lakota from a nearby South Dakota reservation, which bans alcohol. Result: alcoholism, domestic violence, murder, suicide and birth defects at rates unprecedented almost anywhere else in the country.

These grim facts inform an ambitious multimedia investigative series created by journalism students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The series has a specific point of view: It blames Whiteclay for making alcohol available, and past injustices to local Native Americans that include the massacre at Wounded Knee. It also has a goal: to convince the state to ban alcohol sales there.

While straddling the line between activism and journalism, the students use compelling words and images to convey this modern trail of tears.

These include chilling facts: The Lakota live in the poorest of America’s 3,144 counties, with an unemployment rate of 55 percent among its roughly 30,000 residents. “Men die on average at age 47 … that’s a shorter lifespan than any other country in the world … Its women fare better. On average, they live to 55—on par with Angola, Nigeria and Somalia.”

The series also includes portraits of lives harmed by alcohol. These include the 12 children suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum adopted by Nora and Randy Boesem. “For every meal, three of the children must eat via a tube that transports nutrients directly into their bodies. Because of developmental problems stemming from FASD, certain digestive organs must be bypassed for the children to consume food. … After lunch, it’s time for another round of diaper changes, one of five each day for seven of the children (all 5 or older).”

See the complete series here.

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