Whiteclay, Nebraska, has a population of about 10 people, but it sells more than four million cans of beer and malt liquor annually, because it is the main channel through which alcohol illegally enters the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a few steps away.
As Nicholas Kristof described in The New York Times on May 6, Pine Ridge, one of America’s largest Indian reservations and one of the poorest places in the country, bans alcohol. The Oglala Sioux who live there struggle to keep alcohol out, going so far as to arrest people for possession of a can of beer. But the tribe has no jurisdiction over Whiteclay because it is just outside the reservation boundary.
So Anheuser-Busch and other brewers pour hundreds of thousands of gallons of alcohol into the liquor stores of Whiteclay, knowing that it ends up consumed illicitly by Pine Ridge residents and fuels alcoholism, crime and misery there.
This story comes on the heels of the recent decision by the U.N. to investigate the plight of Native Americans in the U.S. for the first time.
Anheuser-Busch’s Business Model Violating Tribal Rules, Destroying A Way Of Life
One of the places they will surely investigate is the Pine Ridge Reservation, where a giant corporation’s business model is based on violating tribal rules and destroying a way of living.
“Every person on this reservation has personally seen the negative effects of alcohol, with loved ones or themselves,” said John Yellow Bird Steele, the tribe president.
The only purpose of Whiteclay is to sell to tribe members — there’s nobody else around — and the tribe can’t do anything about it.
“It’s hopeless; the tribe can’t stop the alcohol,” said Kenny Short Bear, 45, who was slumped on the ground outside one of the alcohol stores. He said he was a former teacher who had lost his job and his family because of alcoholism — and then he asked me for $5.
While some Miller, Coors and Pabst beer is sold in the stores, the great majority is Anheuser-Busch products, including Hurricane malt liquor and Budweiser beer.
The tribe says that more than 90 percent of arrests by the tribal police are alcohol-related, along with 90 percent of arrests of juveniles. Children often begin drinking in their early teens.
Oglala Sioux Filed Lawsuit To Stop Flow Of Alcohol
In February, the Oglala Sioux filed a federal lawsuit against the stores, and Anheuser-Busch and several other large American brewing companies, accusing them of encouraging the illegal purchase, possession, transport and consumption of alcohol on the reservation. Fetal alcohol syndrome, fatal drunken driving accidents and beer-fueled murders have cast a pall over Pine Ridge for decades.
We don’t know yet how the lawsuit will go, but as Kristof writes: “I’m pretty sure a nationwide boycott of Budweiser would wake the company up.”
What about the argument that if stores in Whiteclay closed, Pine Ridge residents would just drive further afield to get a drink? That may be true for a few people, but how many Pine Ridge residents have access to cars? And besides, studies have found that when there are fewer liquor stores, there is less drinking and fewer alcohol-related crimes.
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And that doesn’t excuse the fact that Anheuser-Busch is deliberately fostering Pine Ridge’s alcohol problem, and the Oglala Sioux are angry: hence the lawsuit.
If you agree that Anheuser-Busch needs to stop pouring millions of cans of alcohol into Whiteclay every year, please sign our petition asking the company to stop.
Photo Credit: Yakin668