Whiteclay, Nebraska borders the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota and has a population of about 12. It is less than two miles from the village of Pine Ridge, SD, population 3,308. It is the largest Native American city in South Dakota and is the headquarters of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation. There were four liquor stores in Whiteclay that sold about 4 million cans of beer, mostly to residents of Pine Ridge who left the dry reservation to buy their liquor at these stores. In 2017, the State of Nebraska Liquor Commission did not renew any of the liquor licenses in Whiteclay. As a result, all of the liquor stores closed. A non-profit corporation, Whiteclay Makerspace, was formed in Nebraska with the purpose of buying one of the liquor stores and transforming it into a makerspace for Pine Ridge area artists and craftspersons. The building has been purchased, remodeled, and opened for local artists and craftspersons. An online marketing space is now open on the website www.whiteclayredo.com

Rotary District 5610 project members Ina Winter (Hot Springs), Linda Peterson and Tom Katus (Rapid City Rushmore) worked with building manager Jon Ruybalid to secure a $57,575 global grant from The Rotary Foundation (TRF). The grant, approved in August 2020, will support the artists and craftspeople who will be making use of the new makerspace in Whiteclay, NE.  Elements of the grant project include:

  • Equip the Artists and Craftspeople to directly impact the beneficiaries by supplying them with the needed tools and equipment to produce their art. Five centers situated inside the building will include Quilting & Beading, Painting & Drawing, Photography, Woodworking, and Conference rooms. A gallery of art will be in the front and supply shop areas.
  • Stand up a Supply Shop to provide an initial stock of the type of supplies used by local artists and craftspeople. Prices of items will be set to help replenish supplies.
  • Provide Training to succeed in developing their small businesses of art production, the beneficiaries have noted that training is needed in business practices, financial matters, entrepreneurship, marketing, online marketing, computer skills, and professional development.

The project committee members worked for over a year to interview artists, gather equipment costs, supplies list, and secure the training element. They wrote the grant application, secured international Rotary partners with India, Australia, Greece and Mexico, and US Rotary Districts in Vermont and Texas, to provide funding in addition to our District DDF.  The committee will oversee the implementation of the grant, measure outcomes, evaluate the effectiveness of the project, and report on grant activities to TRF.

Art Zeitler, Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator states “This is an outstanding project for an underserved population, and I am delighted to see the support, not only from my fellow Texas Rotarians, but also Mexico, India and elsewhere in the Rotary network. This is a great opportunity for use of a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant.”

Martin Cohn, past president, Brattleboro Rotary Club, and Tristam Johnson, Brattleboro Sunrise Rotary Club, Vermont, concur: “The Rotary Clubs of Brattleboro first became aware of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in October of 2011, making it the focus of their international work. We are proud to join with other Rotary Clubs in supporting the Whiteclay Makerspace in providing jobs and resources to artists on the reservation. We remain committed to its success.”

The beneficiaries of the project will be the resident Lakota artists and craftspeople in need of space and other assistance to produce and sell works that will enable them to raise their level of income. District 5610 project committee will be the grant administrator serving these beneficiaries. Whiteclay Makerspace will be the cooperating organization assisting District 5610 in delivering the project. First Peoples Fund is providing two Native trainers to lead business classes, included in the grant. This is the premier national Native American arts organization that has trained and provided funding to more than 2,000 Native artists over the past 20 years.

Donations of cash or in-kind items are welcomed. Please contact the committee members (listed below) for a current list of needs. Work days for volunteers to install equipment and prepare the space will be scheduled this fall.

Project delivery, particularly the training element, may take up to two years. Monitoring and evaluation may be done during project implementation and up to five years after project completion to ensure outcomes are achieved and the artists and craftspeople are sustaining their businesses.


Ina Winter, Hot Springs Rotary, D5610 DG 2019-20 kristine.ina.winter@gmail.com

Contribution: project and process knowledge:  Linda Peterson, Rushmore Rotary, PDG, RPIC 2018-20 linda4rotary@me.com

Contribution: financial management and product knowledge: Tom Katus, Rushmore Rotary, Omniciye Committee tmkatus@gmail.com

To view and listen to a recent media news release by South Dakota Public Broadcasting click here:  A Once Tarnished Town Is Changing It's Legacy By Richard Two Bulls Sept. 1, 2020