Grassroots Activism

Frank LaMere vowed to close Whiteclay’s beer stores when he first drove through the unincorporated town in 1998. Frank would participate in two documentaries, The Battle for Whiteclay, directed by Mark Vasina and produced by Nebraskans for Peace in 2008, then Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, directed and produced by John A. Maisch in 2014.

From 2014-2017, LaMere and Maisch screened Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian at dozens of universities, churches, and conferences throughout the country, but it was the film screenings in Nebraska that produced the greatest returns. Regular Nebraskans started traveling to Whiteclay to witness the harms being caused by its beer sales. These citizens-turned-activists began attending Nebraska Liquor Control Commission (NLCC) monthly meetings to provide firsthand reports to state liquor regulators.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Maisch was able to secure Sheridan County Sheriff Logs as well as communications between Nebraska’s Governor and local public officials in Sheridan County. The secured documents revealed that Whiteclay had become a dangerous place and that county government was spending an inordinate amount of resources attempting to provide law enforcement in the unincorporated town.

In a March 25, 2017, article, the New York Times declared that the past year had “brought a powerful surge of action from advocates, legislators, and even the state attorney general that seems to have imperiled the [Whiteclay beer] stores for the first time in memory.” One month later, after a 10-hour administrative hearing that included the introduction of these Sheriff Dispatch Logs, the NLCC voted to close all four beer stores.