Native American Sioux suing beer makers, sellers for $500M

Fed up with chronic alcohol-related illness and social problems, a South Dakota American Indian tribe served beer makers and sellers with a $500-million lawsuit on Thursday.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe says that alcohol is banned on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but the 40,000 residents can easily buy and smuggle booze from nearby Whiteclay, Neb. So the reserve is suing Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Moslon Coors, and Pabst brewing companies, and four stores in Whiteclay, the Associated Press said.

“The illegal sale and trade in alcohol in Whiteclay is open, notorious and well documented by news reports, legislative hearings, movies, public protests and law enforcement activities,” the lawsuit says, according to the AP.

“All of the above have resulted in the publication of the facts of the illegal trade in alcohol and its devastating effects on the Lakota people, especially its children, both born and unborn.”

Tom White, a former Democratic state senator, said 1 in 4 babies on the reserve are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and the average life expectancy is between 45 and 52, the Toronto Star reported.

There are also more and more tribe members in jail.

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"This is a town of 11 people. Where do 4.9 million cans of beer go?" White asked.

"There are policing costs, there are social costs, there are health costs. One in four children born on the reservation has fetal alcohol syndrome."

The reserve includes some of the poorest counties in America, with a median income of about $27,000, BBC said.

Nearly 50 per cent of the population is believed to be living below the poverty line.

Sen. LeRoy Louden said Nebraska will introduce legislation to impose restrictions on alcohol sales.

"Like American parents everywhere, we will do everything lawful we can to protect the health, welfare and future of our children," Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele said, the BBC reported.

Representatives from the defendants in the suit did not offer comment. 

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