Capitol: Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers


February 9th, 2012

The Oglala Sioux tribe has filed a lawsuit over beer sales in the northwest Nebraska town of Whiteclay. That story, and more news from the Capitol:

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Critics of alcohol sales in Whiteclay held a press conference at the Capitol Thursday to announce they are suing some of the largest beer makers, including Anheuser-Busch, Pabst Brewing Company and Coors of West Nebraska. (Photo by Robyn Wisch)

The Oglala Sioux tribe is suing beer retailers, distributors and brewers, claiming they knew or should have known that the alcohol they supply is an essential element in an on-going illegal activity. Whiteclay borders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The lawsuit says four stores in the town of 12 people sell the equivalent of nearly 5 million cans of beer a year. It says “vast amounts” of that are illegally transported, resold and consumed.

Alcohol is officially prohibited on the reservation, but alcoholism affects 85 percent of all families, and the average life expectancy is between 45 and 52 years, according to the lawsuit. The tribe has hired former state Sen. Tom White to represent it. White explained the legal theory.

“If I know, or I should know, that I am selling alcohol to a person who’s going to bring it in across the border in violation of their legal and civil duties to Ogalala Sioux Tribe,” White said, “and I give them substantial assistance or encouragement, then I am responsible along with that smuggler, that bootlegger, for all the damages it has caused.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Lincoln Thursday. Efforts to get a response from the defendants were not immediately successful.

Also at the Capitol Thursday, Senators advanced a bill designed to attract large data centers to the state, and a committee endorsed putting a pay raise for senators on the ballot.

The data center bill is being promoted as necessary for the state to compete for a large project by an unnamed company. An Iowa official said the company is considering two locations in that state and one in Nebraska for a $1.2 billion project. The Nebraska proposal would offer tax credits and breaks on sales and property taxes for data center projects that create at least $300 million of investment and at least 30 new jobs.

Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, which is said to be one of the locations under consideration, said the tax breaks would add to the state’s existing competitive advantages. “Professional economic developers tell us that when high-tech companies begin site selection, they look for certain things: low cost, reliable energy, a climate free from widespread disasters, open spaces, access to solid fiber networks, and friendly tax climate,” Hadley said.

No one spoke against the bill, which the Legislature gave first round approval on a vote of 41-0.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s executive board took the first step toward putting the question of a pay raise for senators on the November ballot. On a 6-3 vote, senators advanced a proposal to raise their pay from the current $12,000 a year to $22,500. Speaker Mike Flood said that would be an appropriate level to maintain a citizen Legislature. The last pay raise was approved in 1988. The issue now goes to the full Legislature, which would have to approve before it could be submitted to the voters.

2 Responses

  1. patricia stutzman says:

    That is just amazing.

  2. Rick M says:

    What a crock… What is wrong with people. You have your Free, God Given Agency, to say no. And you have personal accountability for that free agency. Don’t pawn your lack of self control into a law suit.
    I guarantee that any store that said let me see your ID, or said your Native American, and I won’t sell you beer, would be facing just as big a lawsuit. Dammed if you do and Dammed if you don’t. Grow up..take some pride in yourself and be accountable for your own actions.

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