Sioux tribe sues brewers for alcohol woes

on 13/02/12 at 6:57 pm

Booze News

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation photo by Aaron Huey

 

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is suing some of the world’s largest beer brewers, saying they knowingly have contributed to devastating alcohol-related problems on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court of Nebraska, seeks $500 million in damages for the costs the tribe has incurred in dealing with crime and providing social services and health care as a result of rampant alcoholism among the 20,000 tribal members.

The suit is on behalf of the tribe, however, and no individual tribal members are plaintiffs and eligible for money.

It also targets four beer stores in Whiteclay, Neb., a tiny town in northwest Nebraska at the South Dakota border near the reservation. Despite only about dozen residents in town, the stores sold almost 5 million cans of beer in 2010 — almost 250 cans per Pine Ridge tribal member. Alcohol is not legal on the reservation.

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Tribal leaders and activists blame Whiteclay businesses for chronic alcohol abuse and bootlegging on the reservation. They say most of the stores’ customers come from Pine Ridge.

“In a town of 11 people selling 4.9 million 12-ounce servings of beer, there is no way that alcohol could be legally consumed. It’s just impossible,” said Thomas White, a former Nebraska legislator and Omaha, Neb., lawyer who is representing the tribe.

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