The Unicameral’s Whiteclay Task Force will explore economic development and public health issues during a summit this weekend in Whiteclay.
The task force was created by the Legislature earlier this year as pressure to address alcohol sales and problems stemming from public intoxication mounted.
Before four liquor stores were shut down by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission in April, they sold millions of cans of beer annually in the unincorporated village with about a dozen residents. Much of the alcohol was sold to residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where alcohol is banned.
The liquor stores are fighting the matter in court, and a decision in the case is pending in the Nebraska Supreme Court.
In the meantime, residents, the task force and other interested individuals have been investigating ways to turn around Whiteclay’s economy and address public health issues.
The task force, led by Sen. Tom Brewer and Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, plan to convene the summit Saturday morning at the Oglala Sioux Lakota Nursing Home just south of Whiteclay. The event is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. with refreshments and a welcome by Brewer and Pansing Brooks.
The first discussion topic will be telecommunications infrastructure, presented by Loel Brooks, a telecommunications attorney, at 8:45 a.m. At 9 a.m., Jonathan Ruybalid, a professor and attorney, will speak about creating maker spaces and connecting tools and talent.
The economic development theme will continue with a panel discussion at 10 a.m. Sitting on the panel will be Daniel Bennett of Panhandle Area Development, Janell Anderson Ehrke, the executive editor of Grow Nebraska, Judi gaiashkibos, the executive editor of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, Jenny Nixon of UNL Extension, David Rooks, director of Oyate Parks, and local entrepreneur Martin Pilcher.
The late morning and afternoon sessions will turn to health issues, starting at 11:15 a.m. with an update on telehealth medicine by Dr. Fernando Wilson of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Kim Engel of the Panhandle Public Health District will speak at 12:30 p.m., presenting an outline of the regional health crisis, and Nora Boesem, president of Roots to Wings FASD, will speak about fetal alcohol syndrome at 1 p.m.
A healthcare panel discussion is slated for 1:30 p.m. Sitting on the panel will be Marry Barry Magsamen, the chief officer of organizational growth for St. Monica’s, Selina Hayle, the national expansion director for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Dr. Wilson and Rooks.
Finally, Nate Grasz of the Nebraska Family Alliance and Bill Lukens of Whiteclay Redevelopment will discuss the role of faith-based organizations moving forward at 2:30 p.m., and a brainstorming session at 3 p.m. will wrap things up.
Whiteclay Redevelopment is hosting a dinner Friday at 7 p.m. at Lakota Hope Ministries to preview the summit. The dinner will also feature a panel discussion titled “Dream Big Across the Generations,” focusing on Whiteclay’s history and dreams for the future.