A federal lawsuit accuses those involved in liquor sales in tiny Whiteclay, Nebraska of knowing the beer is heading to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It asks $500 million to offset the crippling poverty and alcoholism among the Lakota people it alleges is the result of the flow of beer across the state line.
Attorney Tom White of Omaha represents the Oglala Sioux Tribe which he says has been damaged by the illegal importation of beer into its reservation.
“In Whiteclay there is no place you can lawfully consume beer on the premises,” White told reporters during a news conference held in the Capitol in Lincoln.
The lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court in Lincoln.
Alcohol is not allowed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whiteclay, a town of 11 in the northern-most section of the Nebraska Panhandle, is located just across the border from Pine Ridge. The lawsuit claims 4.9 million cans of beer are sold in Whiteclay each year and those selling it know it’s crossing the border, making its way into the reservation.
“They know exactly what they’re doing. They know exactly where that alcohol is going and they know exactly the consequences of what they’re doing or the profits they’re making,” asserted White.
The lawsuit names Anheuser-Busch InBev, Miller Brewing, Molson Coors and Pabst Brewing Company, among others. It also names beer distributors as well as the Arrowhead Inn, D&S Pioneer Service, Jumping Eagle Inn and State Line Liquor of Whiteclay.
“And this lawsuit is to force the entire beer industry, from brewers to distributors to retail sales people to do what they tell us when they advertise beer at the end; drink responsible,” according to White.
White said the lawsuit only seeks compensation for the cost of health care, social services and child welfare services caused by chronic alcoholism. The lawsuit seeks to do what protests and appeals to legislators have failed to do: stem the flow of alcohol to the reservation where it is banned. The tribal council voted about four months ago to launch the legal action.
Nebraskans for Peace organized the news conference and has launched a new website on the issue www.savepineridge.org.
AUDIO: Nebraskans for Peace news conference at Capitol on lawsuit [15 min]