Oglala Sioux tribe sues big beer companies

Michael P. Tremoglie Feb. 17, 2012, 2:00pm

LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline) -- The Oglala Sioux tribe is suing multiple businesses and individuals that manufacture, distribute and sell beer and other alcoholic beverages for $500 million, claiming the businesses are responsible for "aiding and abetting" illegal alcohol sales on the Oglala's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation .

The suit, filed Feb. 9 in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, counts among the defendants Anheuser-Busch, Belgium; SAB Miller, United Kingdom which owns Miller Brewing Company; Pabst Brewing Company and Molson Coors Brewing, which is an American company with headquarters in Montreal, Canada.

The Oglala claim there are four retail outlets in Whiteclay, Neb., an area claimed by the Oglala, which is less than 250 feet away from the borders of the PRIR. These outlets are selling a volume of beer, which, according to the complaint total, "in 2004, 433,993 gallons...in 2005, 421,470 gallons... in 2006, 412,140 gallons ... in 2007, 399,466 gallons or... in 2008, 426,586 gallons ... in 2009, 431,207 gallons; in 2010, the total was 465,092 gallons ..."

According to Thomas White of Omaha, Neb., who is the attorney representing the Oglala Sioux, the amount of beer sold in Whiteclay far exceeds an amount that could be legally sold and consumed in area with that sparse a population. The PRIR is the only place that this beer could be consumed. Because of this the retailers should know that their product is being used illegally.

"The Oglala Sioux do not allow alcohol possessed or sold on their reservation," White said. "It is a dry community."

The Oglala assert that not only are the retailers responsible but so are the manufacturers.

The complaint states, "The illegal trade in alcohol could not occur without the knowing cooperation and assistance of every Defendant in the chain of supply. Each and all of the Defendants have profited over the years by supplying vast volumes of alcohol that they knew or should have known was the essential element in an on-going illegal activity. The effects of their common enterprise and cooperation have made that illegal trade in alcohol possible and have caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the OST."

"If one sells alcohol knowing that it will be resold illegally one is committing a crime and a tort," White said. "Nobody wants to stop the sale of alcohol. It is a legal business. But it is being conducted an illegal manner in Whiteclay.

"If you had the same facts and substitute our minor kids in any populated area of the United States, this business would have been shut down years ago."

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