Disproportionate influence
February 18, 2012 7:39 AM   Subscribe

The Oglala Sioux tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have just filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch, InBev, SABMiller, Molson Coors, MillerCoors and Pabst, along with the four off-licences in Whiteclay, seeking $500m (£310m) in damages for their alleged encouragement of the "illegal sale and trade in alcohol" to members of the tribe. Touched upon briefly in early comments, Whiteclay (pop. 11) has been long known for its disproportionate volume of liquor sales, with over 5 million cans of beer sold each year, while Pine Ridge, who outlawed drink on its property, and has a population of 20,000, suffers from a disproportionate percentage of families with at least one alcohol dependent adult member (no less than 85%).
posted by infini (77 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's an interesting concept... that a sovereign tribe could try to have say about what is going on outside their borders. Kind of like dry counties in some states which have liquor stores just across the county line in a non-dry county.

While the ravages of alcoholism on the Oglala Sioux cannot be discounted, it seems that the only real way they could possibly control this kind of thing would be to establish border crossings and search every vehicle entering their reservation. Outside their borders, they really can't expect to exert control, can they?
posted by hippybear at 7:46 AM on February 18, 2012


Their logic is that it's sold with the knowledge that it will be smuggled. It would be great if somebody with knowledge of applicable law could chime in here.

I'm sure we could all have opinions on whether or not that carries water, but you know what they say about opinions.
posted by entropone at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived on the Pine Ridge rez as a very young child-- my dad was a doc there in the late '80s, and I've followed the tribe with some interest for the last few years. It bears repeating that most folks there don't live past their 50s, and it's also worth noting that supply-side regulation of alcohol is proven to reduce mortality and raise life expectancy. For instance, Gorbachev cut vodka production in the '80s and alcohol-related morbidity and mortality fell precipitously.
posted by The White Hat at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


If the states won lawsuits against the tobacco companies, I guess the tribe might win lawsuits against the brewers, distillers, and distributers. The difference, it seems to me, is that it's possible (and maybe even beneficial) to use alcohol at moderate levels. But as entropone pointed out 2 comments above, that's just an opinion.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:05 AM on February 18, 2012


I would like to suggest that, although the problem exists, this is not the solution. The problem isn't that there is alcohol sold 5, 10, 50, 100 miles from the property, but that this country has battered the Native American population since Europeans stepped off the boat. When this country finds a way to mitigate that abuse this won't be an issue . Until then, getting the alcohol off the property will only spawn other ways to self-medicate.

But this is just another opinion.
posted by HuronBob at 8:12 AM on February 18, 2012


Text of the lawsuit (PDF).
posted by Gator at 8:13 AM on February 18, 2012


"Their logic is that it's sold with the knowledge that it will be smuggled. It would be great if somebody with knowledge of applicable law could chime in here. "

Look up the punishment of the tobacco companies that manufactured cigarettes specifically for cross-border smuggling into Canada. I' m pretty sure but not certain there was a rather large fine/settlement but then those companies operated across the border so they were vulnerable to the Canada gov't.
posted by srboisvert at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2012


If this lawsuit does hold up, I wouldn't expect a massive monetary settlement so much as changes in practices and funding for alcoholism treatment. It's sad what alcohol does to the Native American population. While I doubt this is much of a solution, I can't blame the tribe for taking this route. Banning alcohol hasn't worked, but the ban is there because of a desperation to try to do something about the massive issues drinking has wrought on the reservations.
posted by azpenguin at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2012


Not to derail, but what about the things like Western Sky that don't have to follow the exact rules of law because they are on a reservation? Or the horror stories of getting injured by negligence in a casino or on a reservation and can't sue them? I really have no clue how the law works in relation to the reservations, but it feels to me that it would be like suing canada or mexico for people getting cheap prescription drugs.

Seems to me this is like the places just outside of the mormon areas that are dry, where people just go to, or heck, people from Minnesota coming to Wisconsin because it's cheaper and easier to get beer and other alcohol. Not that the companies might be doing bad, but at some point you have to start closer to home to fix some things.
posted by usagizero at 8:52 AM on February 18, 2012


How do we fix something called an "Indian Reservation" ?
posted by infini at 9:13 AM on February 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would like to suggest that, although the problem exists, this is not the solution. The problem isn't that there is alcohol sold 5, 10, 50, 100 miles from the property, but that this country has battered the Native American population since Europeans stepped off the boat. When this country finds a way to mitigate that abuse this won't be an issue . Until then, getting the alcohol off the property will only spawn other ways to self-medicate.

The thing is Native Americans also have a relatively unique genetic predisposition to alcoholism, a circumstance that was actively exploited in putting them where they are now. Maybe they would find other ways to self medicate, but there are reasons that alcohol is especially destructive on reservations.
posted by cmoj at 9:13 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thinks that's where the difficulty lies. Is this an industry-wide conspiracy to sell liquor to minors? Is it a conspiracy which is intended to get minors hooked on booze? I don't know, there might be. That was one of the factors that got the tobacco companies in trouble. They had industry documents showing that they new their product was addictive, and that they augmented the addictive nature of their product. They also marketed to kids to get them hooked early.

So the question is: is this just some guy with a liquor store who is selling lots of booze because he is well-located (for selling booze)? Or are these big companies somehow conspiring to move these massive quantities of alcohol? Seems that as massive as the quantities are, they're small potatoes to these big players.

As bad as some of the Native Americans have it now (and have had it in the past), this doesn't seem like a viable solution to the problem. I mean, let's assume that the tribe won. Would they distribute the funds to their members? How does that help with the problem?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:17 AM on February 18, 2012


How do we fix something called an "Indian Reservation" ?

What do you mean?
posted by desjardins at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2012


I mean, let's assume that the tribe won. Would they distribute the funds to their members? How does that help with the problem?

From the linked article:
The tribe says the $500m compensation will reimburse it for the cost of providing healthcare, social services and child rehabilitation [for 1 out of 4 born on the reservation with fetal alcohol syndrome], and describes the lawsuit as its last resort in the battle to curb alcohol abuse.
posted by hippybear at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2012


I mean, let's assume that the tribe won. Would they distribute the funds to their members? How does that help with the problem?

From the article:
The tribe says the $500m compensation will reimburse it for the cost of providing healthcare, social services and child rehabilitation, and describes the lawsuit as its last resort in the battle to curb alcohol abuse.
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2012


argh, hippybear.
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to downplay the effects of alcohol on the reservations, but this can only actually be a cry for help, because there is no way in hell this will succeed. First off, their suing stores in a different state. Second, it's reservation vs. non-reservation. Third, the places are very likely licensed to sell. Fourth, they are suing beer brewers and not distributors. They aren't even listing one liquor manufacturer.

Very unfortunately, this looks like it's a PR stunt more than a genuine case when what they need is help.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Outside their borders, they really can't expect to exert control, can they?

White Clay used to be part of the reservation, for exactly this reason. Fuck you very much, Teddy Roosevelt.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2012


desjardins, I cannot honestly answer your question with the highest quality that Metafilter demands of its users as it was a knee jerk response to the choice of words still being used today re: "Indian". I speak as an Indian and not an American citizen (though there is that green card somewhere in the folder) and I think that words adn labels carry a lot of power in their meaning and usage. Indians feels like "cowboys and indians" and conjures up imagery of teh F troop when so many other countries have moved along to saying First Nations or Native Americans or Orang Asli (original people) or Aborigines - just speaking as a rank ignorant outsider that its time to change that word imho only. And yes, I do have some friends with whom I've joked about them being Columbus Indians (one even registered it as her handle) - isn't it time for a unique indentity rather than a geographical mistake due to an ignorant European?
posted by infini at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I see - I thought you were from somewhere else (other than India), but your response makes more sense now. Many, if not most, Native Americans refer to themselves as Indian (1, 2, 3), so it's not necessarily considered a pejorative even if it may have been a geographical accident.
posted by desjardins at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I meant that it's not considered a pejorative amongst many North American Indians. I don't know if it's considered a pejorative amongst Indians from India - is that what you're saying?
posted by desjardins at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2012


Neither actually :) Those I've met from reservations or are considered American Indian have laughed along with me on the names. Its just the concept of the word and the reservation that taken together at that point in the conversation made me wonder whether it implies being on the "special" bus somehow?
posted by infini at 10:18 AM on February 18, 2012


this is not the solution.

Of course, it's not a solution at all. They only filed a lawsuit; they didn't win it yet. Virtually everything we comment is pure speculation.
posted by Ardiril at 10:29 AM on February 18, 2012


While the ravages of alcoholism on the Oglala Sioux cannot be discounted, it seems that the only real way they could possibly control this kind of thing would be to establish border crossings and search every vehicle entering their reservation. Outside their borders, they really can't expect to exert control, can they?

There are a number of Alaska Native villages that are dry, and my understanding is that this is precisely what they do: every (large?) vehicle going to the village is searched for contraband alcohol. Of course, the villages in question are not on the road system, so the vehicles being searched are airplanes...

(I'm not clear about the potential role of snowmachines in all this. Mostly what I know comes from the newspaper and Alaska State Troopers on the National Geographic Channel. Which I find totally fascinating, but I wonder how people not living in Alaska feel about it.)
posted by leahwrenn at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2012


I'm trying to get a grasp on how much beer this actually is, in human terms. Just going by the raw numbers, it's about five beers per week per person. That frankly doesn't sound like that much to me, in that I wouldn't tend to think of someone who gets a six pack a week as having a real problem with beer. Obviously, though, that "5 per week" shouldn't be interpreted in that way, since the "per person" includes nondrinkers and light drinkers, so it's going to be higher than five per week among the people who really do the bulk of the drinking. And it also doesn't include other sources of alcohol (e.g. whiskey), but I don't see numbers for that anywhere. So, just comparing apples to apples:

Five million twelve ounce cans is about 1.77 million liters. Figure about 4.5% alcohol, so about 80,000 liters of alcohol from beer per year for the whole population.

Population is 20,000. Figure, what, 2/3 of them are 15 or older? I don't know how accurate that is, but I guess it's probably not a horrible rough guess. So 13,500 people 15 or older.

About 6 liters of alcohol from beer per person 15 or older.

That would put them pretty high on the list of nations of alcohol consumption from beer per person 15 or older (here), but lower than, say, Germany, Austria, or Ireland.

Is that really that much of a problem, in and of itself? I mean, I'm certainly not trying to diminish the issues that any given alcoholic faces, but there are alcoholics in Germany, too, and Germany seems to be doing more or less fine. Maybe extreme poverty is more of the actual problem, one symptom of which might be increased reliance on alcohol?
posted by Flunkie at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2012


The thing is Native Americans also have a relatively unique genetic predisposition to alcoholism

Cite, please?
posted by elsietheeel at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia, Indiana University, a bunch on Google Scholar. Incidentally, the Irish are more likely to lack these genes too.
posted by cmoj at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is that really that much of a problem, in and of itself? I mean, I'm certainly not trying to diminish the issues that any given alcoholic faces, but there are alcoholics in Germany, too, and Germany seems to be doing more or less fine. Maybe extreme poverty is more of the actual problem, one symptom of which might be increased reliance on alcohol?

It's a vicious cycle, and not a simple case of unidirectional causation. You don't have one "actual problem" and one mere "symptom," you have two problems that reinforce each other. Poverty disposes people to alcoholism; widespread alcoholism makes it harder to lift a community out of poverty. And so on, around and around.

In a situation like that, you have to fight the battle on both fronts. You can't just pick one and focus on it exclusively, because the other will come and bite you in the ass.

And it looks like this lawsuit is an effort to fight the battle on both fronts. If they win, and put the money into social services, then they're attacking both alcoholism and poverty. I'm not optimistic about their chances of winning, but it certainly seems worth a try.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:38 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably compounding the problem is that there ain't shit to do on the reservations and in the surrounding area, especially if you're poor, especially in winter.

Figure, what, 2/3 of them are 15 or older? I don't know how accurate that is, but I guess it's probably not a horrible rough guess.

This is pretty accurate (for American Indians as a population) according to the Census. American Indians and Alaskan Natives (called AIAN by the Census) are on average 8 years younger than non-Hispanic whites (PDF cite).

However, Flunkie, I don't think you're accounting for the fact that they can acquire alcohol from places other than this one town. Just because White Clay is the closest town doesn't mean it's the only one. Gordon, Nebraska has a population of 1300 people and Chadron has about 5800 people. Both are about 10 miles from the border.The reservation is 3,500 sq mi (9,000 km2 for you) and there are lots of little towns on all sides.
posted by desjardins at 12:10 PM on February 18, 2012


Also, flunkie, not everyone drinks on the reservation. Total abstinence from alcohol is much higher among Natives than the general population.

Fourth, they are suing beer brewers and not distributors. FTFY.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:20 PM on February 18, 2012


When my sister taught on the Navajo Rez it was dry, and Rez police did stop and search cars. Weirdly, I think the white employees were allowed to have alcohol. One result of the alcohol ban was an increase in huffing, so anything you could huff was locked up in the stores and you could only buy like one can of hairspray at a time.

When we took the kids out West I made sure we spent some time with the Navajo. They just couldn't believe the poverty, especially when contrasted with the gorgeous land. Kind of a bummer on a family trip, but I thought it was something they should know was happening in America.

A friend of mine is really involved in Pine Ridge relief. She made friends with a family she met on vacation and goes back several times a year with donations of coats and school supplies and baby clothes. I'll see what her opinion is on this whole deal.
posted by Biblio at 12:46 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


How hard could it be for Annheuser Busch to send their distributors a memo saying "don't ship to reservation border towns or we will cut you off." ??

I mean, the lawsuit might not hold water, but just for good PR to be able to say "no, we're not adding to the problems on the Pine Ridge Rez" it would be worth it.
posted by ocschwar at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2012


How hard could it be for Annheuser Busch to send their distributors a memo saying "don't ship to reservation border towns or we will cut you off." ??

Why should the non-Indian citizens of those border towns outside the reservation be forced to go dry, just because this reservation doesn't want alcohol sold within its borders?
posted by kafziel at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


IIRC that little town was mentioned in Matthiessen's Crazy Horse book. 35 years later and they're still running that operation? Too bad it didn't burn down.
posted by Twang at 1:03 PM on February 18, 2012



Why should the non-Indian citizens of those border towns outside the reservation be forced to go dry, just because this reservation doesn't want alcohol sold within its borders?


Read that thing I linked to upthread re: the history of Whiteclay. Its sole raison d'etre has always been to smuggle things onto the reservation. It was ceded to Pine Ridge in 1882 to end the smuggling, then reclaimed by Roosevelt in 1904, at which point smuggling immediately resumed.

It's a place where eleven people live. Eleven. A considerable percentage of them are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:10 PM on February 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


Many, if not most, Native Americans refer to themselves as Indian

It's hard to go wrong to use the name by which the people's groups call themselves. In SoDak those names are Lakota, Dakota, Nakota. If you really want to know, just ask.
posted by Twang at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2012


Why should the non-Indian citizens of those border towns outside the reservation be forced to go dry, just because this reservation doesn't want alcohol sold within its borders?

Because you don't have a constitutional right to live in a wet town and your doing so is contributing massively to an enormous amount of human suffering? Because there's more important things in the world than whether a particular town permits alcohol sales, and one of them is that a nearby community has a life expectancy in the 50s?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:20 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In SoDak those names are Lakota, Dakota, Nakota.

Right, but when referring to themselves in combination with Crow, Oneida, Iroquois, etc and other tribes they often refer to the entire group as "Indian." I went to Montana State, and the student group - which is overwhelmingly made up of kids from the nearby Crow reservation - is called the American Indian Council. The university itself, however, which is overwhelmingly white, refers to the population as Native American.
posted by desjardins at 1:41 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why should the non-Indian citizens of those border towns outside the reservation be forced to go dry, just because this reservation doesn't want alcohol sold within its borders?

Why do the bars here (Milwaukee) close at 2 am? Why can't you buy alcohol in stores after 9 pm? (No, seriously, that's a real thing.) It dramatically cut down the amount of drunk driving incidents.
posted by desjardins at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2012


Because you don't have a constitutional right to live in a wet town and your doing so is contributing massively to an enormous amount of human suffering?

Actually, in this situation, I'd argue that the people of these border towns do have a constitutional right to live in a wet town. In so far as no governmental body that they've elected to represent them has made their towns dry towns, and they have a constitutional right to be bound by their own laws and not those of neighboring jurisdictions. The reservation's laws end at its borders, and extending them further is no more constitutional than Virginia passing a law saying that the sale of liquor is illegal in Maryland and then trying to enforce that.

If you want to reduce that suffering, do so by way of education and treatment. I shouldn't think you're someone who needs to be told that prohibition of an abusive substance doesn't accomplish a damn thing.
posted by kafziel at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2012 [6 favorites]



I would like to suggest that, although the problem exists, this is not the solution. The problem isn't that there is alcohol sold 5, 10, 50, 100 miles from the property, but that this country has battered the Native American population since Europeans stepped off the boat. When this country finds a way to mitigate that abuse this won't be an issue.


HuronBob, I'm with you.

South Idaho has Duck Valley and Fort Hall, north Idaho has the Nez Pierce. Up north it's a bit better, but there's still a large population that suffer from various addictions, not the least of which is alcoholism. Southern Idaho still has a problem with no piped water and flush toilets--it's really understandable that they drink because life sucks and there is no way out.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:58 PM on February 18, 2012


Here's an interview with Tom White, the lawyer for the Oglala Sioux. Starts after 12:15.
posted by sneebler at 3:27 PM on February 18, 2012


Because you don't have a constitutional right to live in a wet town...

Sure I do. Ever since December 5, 1933.
posted by madajb at 4:23 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



The thing is Native Americans also have a relatively unique genetic predisposition to alcoholism

Cite, please?


The tolerance to alcohol is not equally distributed throughout the world's population, and genetics of alcohol dehydrogenase indicate resistance has arisen independently in different ethnic groups.[2] People of European descent on average have a high alcohol tolerance and are less likely to develop alcoholism compared to Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans and some East Asian groups.[3][4][5] This is related to an average higher body mass, but also to the prevalence of high levels of alcohol dehydrogenase in the population.[6][7] The high alcohol tolerance in Europeans and some other ethnic groups has probably evolved as a consequence of centuries of exposure to alcohol in established agricultural societies.[8][2]
Not all differences in tolerance can be traced to biochemistry.[9] Differences in tolerance levels are also influenced by socio-economic and cultural difference including diet, average body weight and patterns of consumption.[10][11]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_tolerance

It should come as no surprise. My ancestors hail straight to Mesopotamia at the dawn of agriculture. They've been growing wheat and barley, and brewing it for beer for thousands of years. Native Americans have only been introduced to it for the last 300 or so. Hence alcoholism, diabetes, lactose intolerance.

This is the real source of the white race's power: we can eat anything.
posted by ocschwar at 4:28 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would like to suggest that, although the problem exists, this is not the solution.

I shouldn't think you're someone who needs to be told that prohibition of an abusive substance doesn't accomplish a damn thing.

It's funny, you know, here's a soundbite that's often used about aboriginal communities all over the world where alcohol abuse is endemic - from both the right and the left, as seen above.

The funny thing about it is - in regards to running "Dry" communities or severely restricting access to alcohol - the best evidence is that it is untrue. I don't have a lot of knowledge of Indian communities, but aboriginal communities in Australia that are dry (or effectively dry), have actually beenvery successful at: a) reducing alcohol abuse, b) reducing the overall health burden on the community, and c) concomitant large reductions in domestic violence, sexual abuse, and street-violence.

Whilst it's true that banning alcohol does not reduce petrol/solvent sniffing, it is equally true that every drinker in in the town does not start huffing. Reducing access to alcohol has had very positive public health outcomes in the majority of communities where it has been practiced in Australia and to the best of my knowledge in other places.

But of course, let's not some shit about freedom or something get in the way of creating generations of alcoholics.
posted by smoke at 4:30 PM on February 18, 2012



Actually, in this situation, I'd argue that the people of these border towns do have a constitutional right to live in a wet town.


Well, the legal system disagrees. When we repealed nationwide prohibition, we allowed towns and counties to stay dry, and some have.

And border towns should. Border towns are there to host those activities that cannot be done on reservations because of the weirdness of Indian tribal laws (for example, many companies will not set up shop on land they don't own, and so they set up only next door to the rez). If you choose to live in a border town, you choose to live on the edge of Indian Country, and you have to be willing to abide by the implications, which may include prohibition on liquor sales.
posted by ocschwar at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2012


The fundamental problem here is demand. When you restrict supply you infringe on people's liberty; you make alcoholics dependent on smugglers, who take all their money; you create a culture of illicit binge drinking; you provide an excuse to drive alcoholics out of their homes and into "wet" areas. We have all of those things here in Australia and I don't know that restricting supply has made people happier on average, although I suppose the dry communities themselves may be somewhat better off.

An Australian Aborigine I was chatting to once told me that the solution was tribal justice - let the elders sort it out with a spearing (in the leg) for anyone caught drinking. I nodded politely but I could see some constitutional issues with implementing that.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:27 PM on February 18, 2012


Alcohol intolerance does not equal a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.

And Indian societies had alcoholic beverages before white folks got here.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2012


If you choose to live in a border town, you choose to live on the edge of Indian Country, and you have to be willing to abide by the implications, which may include prohibition on liquor sales.

Well, no, you choose to live in a state where alcohol sales are legal to anyone over the age of 21, including those who may live on a reservation, and you've got no legal obligation otherwise.

According to wikipedia, 1 in 4 kids born on the reservation have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which is truly horrible but I'm not sure that suing someone for doing something legal where they live is the answer.
Best to spend some of the casino profits on counseling or treatment. Wikipedia also says they've built a hospital. I wonder if it has an alcoholism program.
posted by madajb at 5:35 PM on February 18, 2012


Best to spend some of the casino profits on counseling or treatment.

How much money do you think they're making from the Casino? It's in rural South Dakota.

From Time: [In 2001] the Oglala's Prairie Wind Casino, housed in a temporary, white, circus-tent-like structure smaller than a basketball court, turned a profit of $2.4 million on total revenue of $9.5 million. Most of the money went to fund general programs, such as services for the elderly and young people, as well as education and economic development. But even if there had been profit sharing instead, the payout would have worked out to a daily stipend of just 16¢ for each of the 41,000 tribe members.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:52 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best to spend some of the casino profits on counseling or treatment.

Wow, really? It's a casino in the middle of nowhere. The nearest city of any size you might have heard of is Rapid City, SD, 2 hours away.

Anyway, the tribe already spends casino profits on education and social welfare efforts. What did you think they spent it on?
posted by hippybear at 6:04 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plus it's TINY. Here are the stats as to exactly what the casino has in the way of gaming. 9 card tables. Yes, that's right, NINE. And seating for a whole 150 people for bingo games. And barely over 250 machines.

For comparison, the off-reservation casino here near Spokane (which isn't really that big) has this kind of facility. Basically five times as big.
posted by hippybear at 6:09 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]




The fundamental problem here is demand. When you restrict supply you infringe on people's liberty; you make alcoholics dependent on smugglers, who take all their money; you create a culture of illicit binge drinking; you provide an excuse to drive alcoholics out of their homes and into "wet" areas. We have all of those things here in Australia and I don't know that restricting supply has made people happier on average, although I suppose the dry communities themselves may be somewhat better off.


If you make them drive further than they can afford (not hard to do with Indians and $4 gas), then they will have to move off the rez to drink, and I suspect the Lakota would be fine with that.


Alcohol intolerance does not equal a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.


No, it just approximates it very nicely when just a few drinks can keep you shitfaced for hours on end because your body can't break down the alcohol quickly enough.


And Indian societies had alcoholic beverages before white folks got here.


I've seen videos of Brazillian Indians using manioc beer as an emetic.
As in take one gulp, wait 30 seconds, barf your guts out.
Somehow I doubt such people can attend Octoberfest and not kill themselves.
posted by ocschwar at 6:22 PM on February 18, 2012


Plus it's TINY. Here are the stats as to exactly what the casino has in the way of gaming. 9 card tables. Yes, that's right, NINE. And seating for a whole 150 people for bingo games. And barely over 250 machines.

Your information is somewhat out of date

How much money do you think they're making from the Casino? It's in rural South Dakota.


It's hard to say, this article suggests $125,000 a month. Even if it's half that, it would fund at least 2 full-time counselors.
Better to spend it on that than on frivolous lawsuits.
posted by madajb at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2012


The reservation has to compete with non-Indian owned casinos, too. There's a huge influx of motorcyclists and tourists into South Dakota every summer. Many of them end up in the casinos in Deadwood, close to Sturgis. I doubt very many travel to Pine Ridge.
posted by desjardins at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2012


Perhaps they should consider ending the ineffective prohibition. They should allow sales on the reservation and open their own brewery. The fact that millions of dollars a year leaves the reservation economy and goes off the reservation is a problem. They should also consider wet treatment programs to try to make addicts more functional.
posted by humanfont at 6:46 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you make them drive further than they can afford (not hard to do with Indians and $4 gas), then they will have to move off the rez to drink, and I suspect the Lakota would be fine with that.

If that's the case, then fuck the Lakota and their pretenses of caring about human suffering. Because that's just NIMBY bullshit.
posted by kafziel at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2012



If you make them drive further than they can afford (not hard to do with Indians and $4 gas), then they will have to move off the rez to drink, and I suspect the Lakota would be fine with that.

If that's the case, then fuck the Lakota and their pretenses of caring about human suffering. Because that's just NIMBY bullshit.


To use an old cliche, walk a mile in their moccasins before saying that. And watch out for the drunk drivers.
posted by ocschwar at 7:16 PM on February 18, 2012


Your information is somewhat out of date

No. My information for that one casino is likely correct. Here are the stats for the second casino. 100 machines. That's it.
posted by hippybear at 7:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


No. My information for that one casino is likely correct. Here are the stats for the second casino. 100 machines. That's it.

The article I linked says 309 machines at Prairie Winds, which is significantly more than 250.

Which would give them 409 at least.
From skimming google, revenue of $50 per machine/day doesn't seem extreme(and may be low), which would give them $20,000/day in revenue. If you halve because obviously not very machine is going to be cranking all day, every day, you still end up with $300,000 a month.
Even accounting for overhead, it's a pretty decent income which could pay for a pretty decent alcohol treatment program.

Naturally, of course, they have a limited amount of income from the casino to spread around, but if alcoholism is a big a problem as is claimed, it may be that it should be the first priority for spending.
posted by madajb at 7:55 PM on February 18, 2012


True, but you're discounting all the tribe members who are employed at the casinos and the overhead for running the facilities themselves. Or do you think that they work for free?
posted by hippybear at 8:11 PM on February 18, 2012


The whole reservation system is a relic that often seemed designed to fail from the beginning. The solution being sought effectively increases the reservation's isolation. This indicates that woe will be a continuing issue even without booze.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:44 PM on February 18, 2012


True, but you're discounting all the tribe members who are employed at the casinos and the overhead for running the facilities themselves. Or do you think that they work for free?

I did put "even accounting for overhead".
Looking around, I couldn't find any figures that looked "official" (as opposed to numbers from random blog posts and obvious anti-casino shills) for revenue or costs. That's why I tried to estimate numbers on the low side.

If you can find more accurate figures, I'd be interested.
posted by madajb at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2012


Well, the tribe already spends the casino money on education and social welfare projects for its members. I suppose you'd rather they stop doing those things and instead only spend it on alcohol treatment?

I guess ultimately I don't understand what you're arguing here. You seem to think the tribe is just rolling in funds which they can direct toward whatever you think is best. I doubt this is the fact, and suggest that they're making due with very little per capita and are doing the best they can with it in the face of an epidemic which has impacted 8 out of ten families who live in Pine Ridge and leaves 1 in 4 children developmentally disabled.

Perhaps this summary of demographics of those who live on the reservation gives a better picture of exactly what is faced by members of the Oglala Sioux who live there. 80% unemployment? Per capita income of less than $7000? These are not a people who have cash to throw around at anything, be it as individuals or as a group.

Perhaps you believe you know better how they should be spending their money, but last I checked, the historical record about Native Americans having their money managed for them hasn't really had much of a golden track record.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2012


Perhaps this summary of demographics...
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on February 18, 2012


madajb...

Your suspicion of Native American Casino profits is really just a blame-the-victim position masquerading as skeptical inquiry. The facts don't bear out your suspicions that Native Americans are simply rolling in dough and ignoring the problems that make them the poorest individuals living in the western hemisphere...

If you're interested in Indian Casino profits...take a look at this article.

In the case of Pine Ridge, the Casino money does go to a host of programs, some for school kids some for the elderly, some money for alcohol programs...but there just isn't as much money as you think, and furthermore most of the money made goes to a small group of wealthy individuals in the reservation as opposed to a profit sharing scheme like you assume it does. Not to mention a large percentage of the money goes to non-native financial backers and underwriters.

The hospital you refer to above was a hospice type center for the elderly. General hospitalization is funded by the US government in the form of the IHS (Indian Health Services) as designated by treaty. It is horrendously underfunded and uses a lot of resources to fight diabetes which is as large an issue as alcoholism if not bigger. I half-expect you to condemn the IHS as a government handout but I think a review of the history of US-Native treaties holds that argument in check.

Why should the non-Indian citizens of those border towns outside the reservation be forced to go dry, just because this reservation doesn't want alcohol sold within its borders?
I'd argue that the people of these border towns do have a constitutional right to live in a wet town.

kafziel, these comments reveal your ignorance on this specific subject and illustrate why you really shouldn't be commenting. I imagine you have not ever seen Whiteclay on a map. There is really only one "town" being discussed here with regards to Pine Ridge and that "town" is Whiteclay. Do you realize that Whiteclay is not a "town" like you might expect? It quite literally exists SOLELY to funnel alcohol into the Pine Ridge Reservation. It has no Post Office, no Parks, no firefighters or police. It has less than 11 people living in it. Stop turning this into a conversation about the rights of border towns everywhere and the god-given-right of non-natives to get drunk. That sort of characterization is completely wrong in this context. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Naturally, of course, they have a limited amount of income from the casino to spread around, but if alcoholism is a big a problem as is claimed, it may be that it should be the first priority for spending.

Sanctimonious garbage. If only they had you in charge maybe they'd pull themselves up by their bootstraps...those rascals! Alcoholism is but one problem in a patchwork of problems that create an existence for Natives that would be unimaginable for most Americans. The life expectancy on the Pine Ridge Reservation is around 50. To get an idea of some of the problems they face please take a look at this article and then decide on what should be "first priority for spending."

It's hard to say, this article suggests $125,000 a month. Even if it's half that, it would fund at least 2 full-time counselors. Better to spend it on that than on frivolous lawsuits.

These generalized takes and armchair expertise on such a deeply complex issue comes across at best as arrogance and at least as conservatism dressed up as "common sense." I half-expect you to trot out some Native American "welfare queen" crap.

The fact remains that I agree that this lawsuit, even if it did go through, would hardly do anything to help with the problem of alcoholism...which is a byproduct of a systemic failure and of the continued legacy of Native neglect and abuse. I agree with other posters above that this is, more than anything, a cry for help...or at least a way for the Native American community to feel like it has some agency in addressing its myriad problems. Even if it was little more than an effort to grab headlines (the notion of which I disagree with), that's a step in the right direction. At this point any attention devoted to the subject of Native American poverty and community decay in the US is good attention...
posted by jnnla at 11:25 PM on February 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I guess ultimately I don't understand what you're arguing here.

I'm sorry, I thought it was clear.

I am suggesting that the tribe spend its limited resources on a program that would have an actual effect on reducing alcohol abuse on the reservation rather than wasting it on what is likely an unwinnable lawsuit.
posted by madajb at 11:25 PM on February 18, 2012


The facts don't bear out your suspicions that Native Americans are simply rolling in dough and ignoring the problems that make them the poorest individuals living in the western hemisphere

I would take it kindly if you did not put words into my mouth. I have never said anything of the sort.
posted by madajb at 11:37 PM on February 18, 2012


Thank you for that link jnnla, it is a sobering thought that what is being described at Pine Ridge is worse than what I've seen in some arid and economically challenged parts of Kenya just a couple of weeks ago.
posted by infini at 11:51 PM on February 18, 2012


Ian Frazier's On the Rez is a great read focusing on the despair and personal tragedy that living near White Clay and its beer based economy causes. a hefty excerpt can be found here:

In Whiteclay decades of barroom violence have smashed all the saloon windows and mirrors and broken all the stools over people's heads, and now no bars remain. Elsewhere Indian bars bolt stools and other furniture to the floor and serve drinks only in flimsy plastic cups that can't be used as weapons. Whiteclay has gone even further: there are abandoned houses and grain silos where you can drink protected somewhat from the weather, but the town's liquor sales are now all carry-out. Today no commercial establishment in Whiteclay allows its customers to drink indoors.
posted by zaelic at 4:30 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the states won lawsuits against the tobacco companies, I guess the tribe might win lawsuits against the brewers, distillers, and distributers. The difference, it seems to me, is that it's possible (and maybe even beneficial) to use alcohol at moderate levels.

Daddy-O, it's possible (and maybe even beneficial) to use tobacco at moderate levels. The first claim I made is obviously true; there's some evidence (that I can't find right now) that extremely low consumption of nicotine correlates negatively with cancer - but only extremely low.

tl;dr: no difference... except geographical jurisdiction.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:14 AM on February 19, 2012


zaelic, that article ends with the story of SuAnne Marie Big Crow, and as written it is very moving.

"Others yelled, "Where's the cheese?"—the joke being that if Indians were lining up, it must be to get commodity cheese. The Lead high school band had joined in, with fake Indian drumming and a fake Indian tune. Doni De Cory looked out the door and told her teammates, "I can't handle this." SuAnne quickly offered to go first in her place. She was so eager that Doni became suspicious. "Don't embarrass us," Doni told her. SuAnne said, "I won't. I won't embarrass you." Doni gave her the ball, and SuAnne stood first in line."
posted by dglynn at 9:32 AM on February 19, 2012


Well, no, you choose to live in a state where alcohol sales are legal to anyone over the age of 21, including those who may live on a reservation, and you've got no legal obligation otherwise.

I'm not exactly sure how the law works, but, "the reservation" isn't just an area. It's a sovereign nation. So, this issue is a bit more complicated than you give it credit for.
posted by entropone at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2012


Is there any indication that casino money or other limited funds is being spent on this lawsuit? Class action suits frequently (usually?) require no money upfront; the attorneys are paid only if they win.
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on February 19, 2012


are being spent
posted by desjardins at 1:30 PM on February 19, 2012


For anyone interested, the complaint and press release are available here.
posted by madajb at 1:51 PM on February 19, 2012


Man there is some racist bs in this thread.

We'd never accept as much patronizing and generalizing commentary about any other ethnic group(s) on mefi.
posted by spitbull at 8:56 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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