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Sioux Tribe Sues Beer Vendors for $500 million in Damages

The Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Nebraska is roughly the size of Connecticut and has 40,000 residents. The reservation sits right next to a the tiny town of Whiteclay, home to a mere 11 residents. The reservation is “dry,” meaning that it does not allow any alcohol on the premises. However, Whiteclay, just a short two miles form the largest residential area on the reservation, has establishments that sold an astounding 4.3 million 12 ounce cans of beer in a 12 month period. The tribe’s elders are blaming these businesses for the out of control alcohol abuse and bootlegging problem they have on their reservation.

The tribe has filed a $500 million lawsuit against some of the world’s most recognizable beer manufacturers and distributors along with the four retailers in Whiteclay that sell alcohol. The members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe want this money to be put towards both the increased healthcare and law enforcement fees they have incurred as a result of the alcohol abuse on the reservation. In addition, the tribe is asking the stores to stop all alcohol sales to Native Americans from the reservation.

Tribal Alcohol-Related Lawsuit Violates Civil Liberties in this Country

Attorneys for the Whiteclay stores emphasize that their clients are not allowed under laws in this country to discriminate based on race or ethnicity. One attorney stated, “The absurdity of this request cannot be understated.”

The lawsuit may appear to be ridiculous to many Americans, but when the harsh reality of the effects of alcohol on the reservation are seen, the case becomes more understandable. Currently, 25 percent of babies born on the reservation are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome. Furthermore, the tribe has the grave distinction of having the shortest life expectancy in the entire Northern Hemisphere after Haiti. On average, the Sioux tribal members live to between 45 to 52 years of age while in the USA that number is a quarter of a century higher at nearly 78 years.

Judge is Deliberating on Whether to Dismiss the Tribe’s Suit Altogether

Motions were filed recently asking for a judge to reject the tribe’s case. According to attorneys, the tribe’s claims are “speculative at best” and the problems are due to an individual’s personal conduct. In addition, there is no way to prove that the stores in question are responsible any more than any other retailer in the Midwest and does not take into account the possibility that tribe members may be producing and selling alcohol in their own homes.

What are your thoughts on the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit? What are possible solutions to the problem that may not have been discussed? Leave us a comment and let us know your ideas below.

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