Whiteclay

Frank LaMere (center right) of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska listens to Bryan Brewer (center left), former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as he address a group of people gathered on the steps of the Capitol building following oral arguments in the Nebraska Supreme Court on Tuesday. KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star

The fate of beer sales in Whiteclay is now in the hands of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

An attorney for the unincorporated village's four embattled beer stores and lawyers who are fighting to keep them closed faced off Tuesday morning in a Capitol courtroom.

Arguments from the hearing — along with written briefs and a 10-volume record from the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission — will help justices decide whether state regulators' decision to close the stores earlier this year should stand.

A final decision could come in a month or two.

Whiteclay is a short walk from South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol is banned.

Before they closed April 29, the four beer stores in Whiteclay sold millions of cans of beer and malt liquor each year to the reservation's Oglala Lakota residents.

Lawyers for the Liquor Commission and four Sheridan County residents who oppose Whiteclay beer sales argued the commission acted within its authority when it closed the stores earlier this year, and that the beer stores' appeal is fatally flawed.

Andrew Snyder, who represents the beer stores, raised his own technical concerns with the commission's move, saying it overstepped limits on its authority that were determined through previous cases before the state's high court.

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The hearing lasted about 40 minutes.

Afterward, Snyder said he couldn't make a prediction about the outcome.

Moments later, Whiteclay opponents celebrated outside. Bryan Brewer, former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, pointed to a fellow activists' sign that read "Shut Down Whiteclay."

"This has happened today," Brewer said. "I am very confident that Whiteclay will never open up again."

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