Sioux Tribe Sues Beer Makers for $500M

Sellers turning blind eye to smuggling, devastating problem: suit
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2012 1:20 AM CST
Native Americans drink beer on the streets of Whiteclay, Nebraska.   (AP Photo/William Lauer, File)
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(Newser) – The town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, has only 14 residents, but four beer stores which sell nearly 5 million cans a year. If you think those numbers sound strange, you're paying more attention than beer makers, a lawsuit from the Oglala Sioux Tribe charges. The Pine Ridge reservation—where alcohol is outlawed—is just two miles north of Whiteclay across the state line in South Dakota, and the tribe is suing five major beer makers (Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB Miller, Molson Coors, MillerCoors, and Pabst) it accuses of knowingly contributing to devastating alcohol problems on the reservation, reports AP.

"You 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 in," the tribe's attorney says. One in four children on the Connecticut-sized reservation suffers problems caused by fetal alcohol exposure, and the average life expectancy—between 45 and 52 years—is the lowest in anywhere in North America except Haiti, according to the lawsuit, which tribal leaders say is a last resort after failed efforts to curb the alcohol sales. The tribe is seeking $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services, and child rehabilitation. (Read more alcohol abuse stories.)

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