The Suing Sioux: Tribe Sues Top Beer Makers For Contributing To Alcoholism Of Tribe Members

While the Sioux tribe in North Dakota is fighting the use of “Fighting Sioux,” the Suing Sioux of South Dakota are in federal court with a rather novel (and in my view thoroughly frivolous) lawsuit of their own. The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota is suing the largest beer makers for contributing to the corruption and abuse of members of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by supplying alcohol through local stores. The tribe is demanding $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation.

The lawsuit in Nebraska references four beer stores in Whiteclay, a Nebraska town near the reservation’s border. The town only has about a dozen residents but reportedly sold nearly 5 million cans of beer in 2010. Either the residents have the world’s biggest beer guts or they are making huge profits by selling alcohol to the local indians. The town lies less than 250 feet from the reservation border.

However, beer sales are perfectly legal and these indian customers are adults who have a right to purchase alcoholic beverages — and the citizens of Whiteclay have a right to sell the beer so long as they have the required permits. Notably, as this picture represents, taverns have existed in Whiteclay (or Pine Ridge) for many decades. (This is from the 1940s)

Tom White, the tribe’s Omaha-based attorney, “[y]ou cannot sell 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled.” Actually, you can. It is called retail sales. The question is not whether the lawsuit will succeed but whether it could generate sanctions. The legislature has thus far declined to impose limitations on beer sales around the reservation. Absent such measures (which could be challenged in court), there is a conspicuous absence of legal authority to support such a claim. The tribe is offering policy arguments that are quite compelling but they are inviting a court to function as a super legislature in the imposition of such liability.

It is certainly true that state law prohibits drinking outside the stores and the nearest town that allows alcohol is over 20 miles south (alcohol sales are banned on the reservation). However, the tribe would be best served by taking up the matter with tribe members rather than suggesting that stores should not be able to sell beer to indians.

None of this questions the good-faith goals of the tribe, only its means. One in four children on the reservation reportedly suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and the average life expectancy is estimated between 45 and 52 years.

The state is considering a ban or limitation on beer sales in Whiteclay — though I would question the constitutionality of such a law in designating certain areas to be “alcohol impact zones.”

The complaint is long on narrative and short on legal authority or claims. This is the sole claim:

43. Plaintiff restates each and every previous allegation in support of this Cause of Action as if fully set forth herein.
44. As part of a common enterprise, the Defendants and each of them, have knowingly acted in concert to manufacture, distribute and sell beer through the Whiteclay retail outlets in amounts that cannot be legally sold, consumed or possessed under the laws of the State of Nebraska and the OST.
45. The Defendants and each of them, know or should know that the Retail Defendants’ conduct in the sale of the vast amount beer which is smuggled into and resold in the Reservation is in breach of their duties under the law of the State of Nebraska and the OST.
46. The Defendants and each of them give substantial assistance and encouragement to the Retail Defendants by supplying and transporting volumes of beer far in excess of an amount that could be sold in compliance with the laws of the State of Nebraska and the OST. The Defendants and each of them, also give further substantial assistance and encouragement to the Retail Defendants through advertisements, marketing materials, and other business accommodations to promote the consumption of beer in the PRIR.
47. The Defendants and each of them have the duty to make reasonable efforts to ensure their products are distributed and sold in obedience to the laws of the State of Nebraska and the OST. The Defendants and each of them have breached that duty by cooperating and engaging in a common enterprise which is focused on assisting and participating in the illegal sale of alcohol.
48. The Defendants and each of them have thereby caused the OST to suffer massive
damages in an amount yet to be determined.

The claim of working in concert reflects the common purpose of selling a legal product.

Here is the complaint: Sioux Suit
Among the defendants are Jason J. Schwarting who runs the Arrowhead Inn in Whiteclay; Stuart J. Kozal who runs the Jumping Eagle Inn and Clay M. Brehmer and Daniel J. Brehmer who run the State Line Liquor in Whiteclay.

Here are the corporate defendants:

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

Source: SF Gate

100 thoughts on “The Suing Sioux: Tribe Sues Top Beer Makers For Contributing To Alcoholism Of Tribe Members”

  1. Bron said:
    “thanks for making sure your buddies dont use them 10 dollar words or high falutin theories when responding to me. It is greatly appreciated.”

    To Bron and to all:

    I believe you and perhaps we all miss a point, which is one I made sometime ago.

    Your opinions were formed before you started acquiring knowledge.
    Opinions serve as filters to information.

    We all have filters as humans, they are necessary at a unconscious level and the conscious one. We filter away things allowing other ones to come in. Some, like warnings for danger, can’t be blocked. Others are later formed by knowledge, and can be modified as needed or desired.
    But these processes of knowledge acquirement and filter creation/modification are actively continuous in some people, and less so in others, for reasons I leave you to think about. Knowledge can effect opinions and opinions can guide knowledge acquisition. And both effect the filter process.

    I’m sure you are with me, that is, if you have been able to keep your opinion from reinforcing your filters as soon as you read something which activates your “critical opinion” alarm; and have instead read neutrally, searching objectively for a line of argument which MIGHT contain some germ of truth.

    Hope this brief sketch of a complicated process is helpful. Humans and our interactions with our surroundings are complicated as you know.

    And don’t make the all too human error of absorbing only knowledge which reinforces your opinions to come through the filter. Most of us do all too easily.

  2. Dredd said:
    ““Manifest Destiny” is just another way of saying “American Exceptionalism” in the form of the right to practice “holy genocide”, rather than “bad genocide.”
    There are many ways to practice effective genocide, ethics aside.
    One is that which we practiced against the AI; the same tactic which some 2 decades was practiced in Pakistan by the then President, whose daughter was later killed, campaigning for re-election
    To quell the numermous oruly tribes of
    Baluchastan, he sent in troops to kill the cattle. Deprived of their subsistence, they simply starved or submitted, moving to controlled villages.
    End of problem.

    Seemed we did the same by setting a bounty on buffalo hides, for which there was no other real market. And thus the native americans met the same fate as Baluchis.

  3. Dredd said:
    “This sickness is condensing most noticeably within the right-wing, however, it is obviously contagious, and pulling the left-wing into the right-wing cesspool.”
    To confirm, one possible reason is that stupidity wins always over intelligence, but then how did mankind gain the upper hand?

    In the rival between species there is a principle which data seems to confirm. Some species, although initially more populous, will be replaced by another. Two explanations are possible, and even can beconcommitant:
    1) Poisoning via emitted toxins
    2) Ability to adapt to larger range of external factors.

    Can we agree that it is the former cause which is active in our case?

  4. Bonnie,
    It sounds like you didn’t miss much not talking to that Irish-Catholic girl for several years. It was her loss not yours.

  5. Growing up American Indian in this country is difficult and very confusing as I have written in a previous blog. Yes, all tribes are sovereign nations; but, all American Indians are wards of the Federal Government. Talk about a dichotomy! My Dad, whose life showed many conflicts he had in trying to be a good American Indian living in a White Man world, was a very pragmatic man. His comments to me regarding our tribal sovereign rights were that if we were sovereign, we would have guns on the reservation that could shoot down enemy planes. Now, whether or not the White Man planes were the enemy planes was still a point of conflicit. My Indian blood comes from both parents and is just a smidge from being 3/4 American Indian blood. My Dad was very close to full-blood except for a bit of a Scotsman’s blood running through his veins and giving him a very Scottish name, Matheson. However, he had the very definitive profile of the Indian head on the nickel. We was unable to buy life insurance because the insurance companies would not insure the life of an American Indian. I personally had a nice Irish-Catholic girl remark to me in the 7th grade after seeing family pictures that she “didn’t want to hurt my feelings or anything; but, they looked Indian.” I told her very proudly that they were and so am I. She never spoke to me again for the rest of our time in school together through high school graduation. Alcohol is a very serious problem in the lives of American Indians; but, I am tending to agree with Professor Turley today and that the lawsuit is frivolous. Before I retired, I worked for the Indian Health Service Headquarters in Maryland. I am aware of numerous programs regarding alcohol abuse and its effects. However, perhaps, this lawsuit comes from the serious cuts in funds for IHS programs that have come from the Bush administration and other Republican austerity cuts, which played a role in my decision to retire.

  6. Bob,
    I am guessing that they “service” the Native American demographic pretty heavily. When you are dirty, even your own blood is another sucker.

  7. Rafflaw,

    Ain’t it the truth.


    That’s precisely the language in the ad that made me look at the fine print in the first place. If there’s some kind of Native American Indian exception to loan sharking it’s just f’n criminal; period.

    I don’t care what kind of sob story you tell me, the tragedies of the past does not grant license to victimize people in the present.

  8. Bob,Esq., the commercials that play in my area go “We can put five thousand dollars in your checking account today … SURE< THE MONEY IS EXPENSIVE…" (my emphasis). They also claim that the cost is less than payday loans.

    The commercials make me sad/angry because they are targeting such desperate people that they tell them they are going to screw them up front, just not as badly as the other predatory lenders. There ought'a be a law. But that would be an unfair burden on capitalism which of course operates best (for all) when it is unfettered.

  9. lottakatz:

    thanks for making sure your buddies dont use them 10 dollar words or high falutin theories when responding to me. It is greatly appreciated.

    The eclat of their words may be too much for me to contemplate.

    here is the link to the definition to spare you and your friends the trouble of typing:

    see 2.

  10. idealist707 1, February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Blouise: I wikied Manifest Destiny, will absorb that for now.
    Dredd,: Your epístomology(?) blog covered a lot of sick places. fine work.
    “Manifest Destiny” is just another way of saying “American Exceptionalism” in the form of the right to practice “holy genocide”, rather than “bad genocide.”

    This sickness is condensing most noticeably within the right-wing, however, it is obviously contagious, and pulling the left-wing into the right-wing cesspool.

  11. GBK:

    Are you a Native American? Here is what a real Native American has to say, pretty similar to what I said above.

    Ben Chavis “argues that the federal government has turned American Indian Tribes that have federal recognition into freeloaders,”

    Chavis believes that federally recognized American Indian tribes survive on federal government handouts, which accompany the recognition, but little else. He is against the Lumbee Tribal Council’s attempt to gain federal recognition because, he says, with it comes listlessness and greed.

    “This is what federal recognition says: ‘We’re whipped,’” Chavis told The Robesonian Thursday. “Lumbees are undefeated. We never lost the war. We never lost our land. Why should we qualify for government handouts?

    “I don’t need the government to tell me I’m Indian,” Chavis said. “We don’t want to be like those Indians out west.”

    Chavis said that the Lumbee tribe has thrived without governmental aid. He pointed out that the tribe has produced many prominent community members, including doctors and lawyers.

    “They are like the Jews,” Chavis said. “Hardworking, businessmen and landowners.”

    Chavis also had this to say:

    “it is racist mentality to believe minorities should not have standards.”

    1. Bron,
      Mighty little facts, lots of opinion.

      Do the Lumbees have an unbroken series of treaties, or do they have any at all? Do they have all there traditional territorial lands from pre-Collumbian days? Where is this paradisical land of plenty, where jew-like native americans practice modern business?
      Do tell us, where is this land of paragons?

  12. PS Just in from fmr congressman Alan Grayson, a MLKjr quote.

    “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted
    with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history
    there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of
    time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost
    opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the
    flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage,
    but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and
    jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:
    ‘Too late.’”

    – Martin Luther King (April 1967)

    He should have been our first black president.

  13. Bob,
    You must be, as Blouise asks.
    How many years and loans would it take to get back what we stole in spite of treaties. Guess I got fooled again.

    Or a damn small Montezuma’s revenge for genocide—-if we compare the survivors to who were here and viable then.
    Come on—‘fess up.

    Noght all, it’s midnight here.

    Sweet nightmares Bron. See GBK chasing you with his Sovjet style tanks?

  14. Bob,

    Are you frickin’ kidding!? I have to leave now but I hope to read more about this tomorrow.

    Raylan Rules!

  15. Nicely done GBK but keep in mind that it’s Bron- keep it simple: it’s tough to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if some sum’bitch keeps stealing your boots.

  16. Blouise—–you are so right. What a place to grow in.

    GBK—–you did so well what I tried to do with my meager knowledge.
    Knowledge and character assassination delivered in a mild tone. Outstanding.

    In all likelihood pearls before a swine.

    But I guess you enjoyed it, and taught us teachables something which we can try to teach others. But how do we disguise ourselves as teabaggers?
    The RWA’s “anti-knowledge” alarm will awaken them otherwise.

    Meanwhile I strive to suppress my sorrow for what my ancestors did. But i can’t make the bell not ring, as someone pointed out. Just do the right thing now.

  17. Does anyone here know whether our guilt over our treatment of the native American Indians has anything to do with the existence of Western Sky Financial?

    “For a $2,600 loan, Western Sky Financial publishes a 139.22% APR. For this loan, you would make 47 payments of $294.46 for a total of $13,839.62. Of course, you are really only getting $2,525 in proceeds, since Western Sky charges a $75 origination fee.”

    Are Native American Indians given a ‘loan shark’ type immunity or something?

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