Tribe seeks injunction on Whiteclay beer sales

By Joe Duggan / OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — A South Dakota Native American tribe has sought a court order to sharply restrict beer sales in the Nebraska village of Whiteclay while larger legal questions are sorted out in a federal lawsuit.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe filed an amended complaint Friday in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, seeking an injunction to limit the total volume of beer sales “to an amount that can reasonably be consumed” in a village with fewer than 12 residents. There are no public places to drink beer in Whiteclay, which lies just south of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

In 2010, the four off-sale beer stores in Whiteclay sold the equivalent of nearly 5 million cans of beer. The tribe’s lawsuit alleges most of the beer was consumed illegally on the South Dakota reservation, where alcohol possession is officially banned.

The tribe’s lawsuit names 13 defendants involved in beer sales in Whiteclay, from the retail outlets to the distributors to global brewers such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors LLC and ­Pabst Brewing Co.

The lawsuit does not list specific damages but seeks to hold the beer suppliers responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in alcohol-related problems on the reservation.

None of the defendants has filed responses to the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 9.

Nebraska has refused to restrict beer sales in Whiteclay, despite knowing the problems it causes the tribe, said Tom White, an Omaha lawyer representing the tribe. Such inaction leaves no other option than to ask the federal courts to intervene, White said.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe is horrified but not surprised by the State of Nebraska’s clear refusal to enforce its laws, which release drunk drivers onto the reservation to maim and kill people,” White said Wednesday.

The state is not one of the named defendants.

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