Pine Ridge Dry Reserve vs. Brewing Companies

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You'd be hard pressed to find Whiteclay Nebraska. And yet tiny Whiteclay sells 4-million cans of beer a year, most of it believed to make its way across the state line to the iconic Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, once home to Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee. Pine Ridge is supposed to be dry. Instead, its population faces rampant alcoholism and addiction. Which is why the Lakota tribe of Pine Ridge is now suing a town and a roster of major brewing companies.


Part Two of The Current

Pine Ridge Dry Reserve vs. Brewing Companies - Oglala Lakota's lawyer

It doesn't take long to walk to Whiteclay, Nebraska from the Pine Ridge Reservation. But that walk covers a lot of historic ground and it's resonant with cultural meaning. Pine Ridge is home to Wounded Knee, considered the last battleground between the U.S. military and native Americans. It was more catastrophe than showdown, more massacre than last stand. More than 150 men, women and children of the Lakota Sioux were dead by the time the gunfire stopped.

For many, Wounded Knee is a byword for wrongs committed by Europeans against native Americans. Alcohol is thought to be one of those wrongs, and Pine Ridge is a dry reservation. If you want a drink, you walk to Whiteclay.

Although Pine Ridge has banned alcohol for more than a century, local leaders struggle to keep the community dry. One in four babies born here has fetal alcohol syndrome or similar disorder. Tribal leaders know where the booze comes from -- Whiteclay. It's population is just 11 people -- but it's home to four liquor stores.

More than 4 million cans of beer and malt liquor were sold there last year -- most of it to the members of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Tribal leaders see it as one more confrontation between natives and Europeans; Europeans with names like Anheuser-Bush, Molson, Miller and Pabst. In February they launched a $500 million dollar lawsuit against those beer companies and the local liquor stores. 

Tom Poor Bear is a member of the Oglala Lakota's tribal council. We aired a clip.

Tom White is the Oglala Lakota Nation's lawyer. And he says beer companies and the liquor stores in Whiteclay aren't just enabling addiction and poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation, they are breaking the law. Tom White was in Omaha, Nebraska.

Pine Ridge Dry Reserve vs. Brewing Companies - Cowessess First Nation

Other communities have taken different approaches to dealing with alcohol abuse. Glenn Pelletier is a band councilor with the Cowessess First Nation, a community of about 600 people in southeastern Saskatchewan. He's also a former addictions counselor and he has had his own battles with alcohol. Glenn Pelletier was in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

This segment was produced by The Current's intern Alex Boyd.

Monday Mail

We had a bit of time to check our inbox. Last week we had a powerful interview with Aruna Papp about crimes of honour - and honour culture. She shared recollections of her life that are part of her new book entitled Unworthy Creature. A Punjabi Daughter's Memoir of Honour, Shame and Love. Many of you had response to share on this conversation and we had time for a couple of letters.

To speak up about anything you hear on The Current, email us from our website, cbc.ca/thecurrent. Or call us toll free at 1 877 287 7366.


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