Nebraska State Sen. Tom Brewer, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks at the Whiteclay summit in Whiteclay, Nebraska, on September 29, 2017. Photo by Kimberly Greager

Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders absent at border town liquor summit

Whiteclay Summit: ‘Where are the Indians?’
Absence of OST President and Council questioned

Native Sun News Today Correspondent

WHITECLAY, NEB. – The filled-to-capacity room erupted in applause and cheers as Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer (Oglala Lakota) welcomed everyone to the Whiteclay Summit Friday evening by announcing the Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling earlier that day which will keep the beer stores in Whiteclay closed.

He spoke about growing up on Pine Ridge and how Whiteclay was a part of his memories for as long as he could remember, and talked optimistically about the future of the small unincorporated village and of the Oglala Lakota people who have been affected by the alcohol from Whiteclay for more than a century. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks also spoke, followed by a panel discussion about different potentials for Whiteclay.

Dave Rooks of Oyate Parks shared his vision and the essential role parks play in creating safe communities and good economies. Chris Cuny, a Lakota entrepreneur, shared a video presentation and talked about his vision for a modern tipi village and an aviary. Billy J. Janis, a Lakota watercolor artist and owner of See-A-Vizion graphic design, spoke about the importance of art and shared renderings he created envisioning what the new Whiteclay could look like.

The Friday evening gathering on September 29th at Lakota Hope Ministry was a preview of the presentations and panel discussions held the following day at the Oglala Lakota Nursing Home. The summit agenda topics for Saturday included Telecommunications Infrastructure, the Maker Space project, Economic Redevelopment, a Pine Ridge Hospital Telehealth Update, an Outline of the Regional Health Care Crisis, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Crisis, a Healthcare Panel & Discussion, and a brainstorming session.

The general mood at the summit on Saturday was light, with most people still elated over the Nebraska Supreme Court’s opinion announced the day before, but seemed to shift quickly. The morning began with everyone introducing themselves briefly, and when one woman introduced herself she voiced her concerns on the demographics of the group gathered at the summit, which consisted mostly of white people; nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, healthcare officials, Christian outreach groups and very few Native Americans.

Judi M. Gaiashkibos (Ponca), the Executive Director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs since 1995, said, “I look around the room today and I see something wrong. I see too many white people and not enough Indians. Where are the Indians? The solutions have to come from the tribe … and they’re not here today.”

Senator Pansing Brooks read an email sent to her by OST President Weston informing her that he and other leaders had to be in Rapid City on Saturday to handle matters regarding the hiring of a new CEO for the Sioux San IHS facility.

Senator Brewer added, “We did send invitations to all the key leaders, but we can’t force people to come and participate… President Weston and I have talked on the phone a number of times…as long as we can keep that dialogue open and get to an understanding we’ll be able to move forward. But we’re not going to get there if we don’t go through these baby steps to move forward. So, let’s focus on the goal of making the future of Whiteclay a very positive one and move forward.”

President Weston and other representatives from the districts did not respond to Native Sun News Today’s repeated attempts for comment on their absence at the summit at the time this article was printed.

Gaiashkibos said later during the discussion panel, “…It’s not easy to get tribal people to meetings, they are very busy people and for many reasons might not be here today, but we can’t stop and say ‘Well we tried and couldn’t get them’ and then this group here get to be the makers of the space. No. We’ve got to go extra hard and make sure that we bring somebody here and figure out a way to get their voice at the table.”

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Nebraska Supreme Court Decision:
Kozal v. Nebraska Liquor Control Commission (September 29, 2017)

Contact Kimberly Greager at

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