Oglala Sioux Tribe Sues to Stop Illegal Alcohol Importation onto Pine Ridge

NATIVE NEWS NETWORK

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – The Oglala Sioux Tribe has filed a lawsuit against brewers, retailers and distributors of alcohol sold in Whiteclay, Nebraska. The lawsuit was announced Thursday at a news conference hosted by Nebraskans for Peace.

Attorney Tom White, legal counsel for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said the defendants are engaged in a common enterprise focused on assisting and participating in the illegal importation of alcohol sold at Whiteclay onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The sale, possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal on the Pine Ridge, where tribal members suffer from crippling poverty and alcoholism rates. Whiteclay lies less than 250 feet from the reservation border.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe seeks compensation for all of the damages the Lakota people have suffered as a result of illegal alcohol sales,” said White, who is with White and Jorgensen Law Offices in Omaha.

“The defendants have failed to make reasonable efforts to ensure their products are distributed and sold in obedience to the laws of the State of Nebraska and the Oglala Sioux Tribe.”

“ We can now begin to address the terrible harm to the Lakota people caused by Whiteclay alcohol sales,” said Oglala Sioux Tribe vice president Tom Poor Bear.

Since two of Poor Bear’s brothers were found murdered outside Whiteclay in 1999, he has fought to bring their killers to justice and close the Whiteclay beer stores.

In Nebraska, Poor Bear has been assisted by Winnebago Tribe activist Frank LaMere and Nebraskans for Peace, a statewide peace and justice organization.

“Whiteclay has fewer than a dozen residents, yet in 2010 its four licensed retail stores sold the equivalent of 4.9 million 12-ounce servings of beer – or over 13,000 cans a day – to a population that has no legal place to drink them,” according to Mark Vasina, president of Nebraskans for Peace. “Much of the beer is bootlegged onto the Pine Ridge for resale.”

Vasina chronicled the struggle by American Indian activists to address this situation in his award-winning 2008 documentary “The Battle for Whiteclay.”

“All those involved in the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay are knowingly contributing to this notorious, illegal behavior and preying upon the Lakota people,” said Frank LaMere, who has directed attention in Nebraska to Whiteclay since 1997.

Defendants named in the complaint include:

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide, Inc.
  • SAB Miller d/b/a Miller Brewing Company
  • Molson Coors Brewing Company
  • Miller Coors, LLC
  • Pabst Brewing Company
  • Pivo, Inc. d/b/a High Plains Budweiser
  • Dietrich Distributing Co., Inc.
  • Arrowhead Distributing, Inc.
  • Coors Distributing of West Nebraska d/b/a Coors of West Nebraska
  • Jason Schwarting d/b/a Arrowhead Inn, Inc.
  • Sanford Holdings, LLC d/b/a D&S Pioneer Service
  • Stuart Kozal d/b/a/ Jumping Eagle Inn
  • Clay Brehmer and Daniel Brehmer d/b/a State Line Liquor

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