Kevin Abourezk: Finding a little bit of hope at Whiteclay

"Jack Andersen pulled beer cans and plastic bottles from a flooded ditch Saturday, trying to make a dent in the pile of garbage that had collected for untold months and years in a neglected corner of this village near Pine Ridge, S.D.

With only a light brown leather jacket to protect him from the cold wind and rain, he stuck his hands into brown muck and jerked bottles of Bud Light and cans of Camo Black Ice from the ground.

"This is kind of hopeless," said Andersen, tossing a can into a black trash bag. "This could go on all day and not even know we did anything."

Hopelessness isn't anything new to Whiteclay, where four beer stores sell nearly 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly to residents of the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The town is known as a gathering place of some of the reservation's most destitute, who drink beer under awnings and on sidewalks in plain view of travelers along Nebraska 87.

But on Saturday, more than 40 volunteers, including nearly a dozen street people, tried to bring hope to the town. Armed with black and white trash bags, ponchos and gloves, they combed the town, picking up plastic, glass and aluminum recyclables.

On a windy and rainy day that barely broke 50 degrees, the volunteers walked along the highway and back streets, trying to sweep the town of piles of trash that so clearly reflected the prevalent business here: beer sales."

Get the Story:
Kevin Abourezk: Unearthing hope from beneath Whiteclay trash (The Lincoln Journal Star 4/25)

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