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Lakota Country Times: Blaze destroys Native-owned grocery store






Arrowhead Foods in Whiteclay, Nebraska, a business owned by Martin Pilcher, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was completely destroyed by a fire on July 25, 2016. Photo by Lakota Country Times

Lakota Owned Whiteclay Grocery Store Burns
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor
lakotacountrytimes.com

WHITECLAY -- Last week a store owned by a local Lakota family burned to the ground in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

Arrowhead Foods stood as a beacon of hope in what has become known as a town filled with despair. The grocery store owned by Oglala Lakota citizen Martin Pilcher was the only business in Whiteclay that was Native American owned. The grocery store was opened by purchased by Pilcher in December of last year. Donations from the store were regularly distributed to community events on the reservation.

The fire started in the morning hours on Monday after after a pressure cooker malfunctioned. Shortly after the fire started reports of the blaze began appearing on social media from residents of Pine Ridge. By the time emergency units arrived on the seen the entire building had been engulfed in flames


Fire crews tend to the blaze that completely destroyed Arrowhead Foods in Whiteclay, Nebraska. Photo by Lakota Country Times

Whiteclay itself sits adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that sits on the Nebraska and South Dakota border. In 2010, the the town sold nearly 13,000 cans of beer a day despite there only being four bars in the town and a population of less than 20 people.

Although hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue are collected from the town by the county and state each year, the unincorporated town does not have a fire department or any type of civil authority capable of handling an emergency of this type. The lack of regulatory authority in the town has resulted in calls for a closure of the town that primarily exists for the purpose of selling alcohol to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where possession and consumption of booze is illegal.


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The lack of a fire department forced emergency units from surrounding Nebraska towns to respond but they were unsuccessful in putting out the flames as the results of the fire are considered to be a total loss.

According to one news source nearly 240,000 gallons of water were used to combat the flames and the fire did not spread to any other surrounding buildings. There has been no comment from the owners regarding their plans going forward.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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