An Native American tribe located in South Dakota sued some of the nation’s largest beer companies, asking for $500 million in damages for the cost of social services, healthcare and child rehabilitation caused by prevalent alcoholism within the reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe alleges that the beer makers knowingly contributed to severe alcohol-related problems on their Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where all alcohol is banned.
The lawsuit comes as a last resort, Tribal elders say, as previous efforts to stop the abuse through protests and attempts to change policy have failed.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation includes Shannon County, which is the third poorest county in the US with a median income of $27,300. Nearly half of the population lives below federal poverty standards and the community’s life expectancy is the lowest in North America (with the exception of Haiti), falling between the age of 45 to 52 years old. The national average is 77.5 years, while one in four children born on the reservation fall victim to fetal alcohol disorders.
The lawsuit claims that beer makers and stores sold alcohol to residents of Pine Ridge knowing that it would be smuggled into the reservation for resell or consumption. Tribal officials allege that these beer firms sold “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 tribe.
“You cannot sell 4.9 million 12oz [356ml] cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled,” stated Tom White to the Associated Press, the attorney representing the tribe.
The companies under scrutiny are well-known household names, including MillerCoors LLC, SAB Miller, Pabst Brewing Company, Molson Coors Brewing Company, and Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide. Something to think about next time you’re reaching for that 24-pack at 7/11.
(photo via cbsnews.com)