Whose fault is the high rate of alcoholism on Indian reservations?
The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota today filed suit against beer makers, seeking $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by alcoholism.
The AP reports:
The lawsuit alleges that the beer makers and stores sold to Pine Ridge’s Indian population, knowing they would smuggle the alcohol into the reservation to drink or resell. The beer makers supplied the stores with “volumes of beer far in excess of an amount that could be sold in compliance with the laws of the state of Nebraska” and the tribe, tribal officials allege in the lawsuit.
The Connecticut-sized reservation has struggled with alcoholism and poverty for generations, despite an alcohol ban in place since 1832. Pine Ridge legalized alcohol in 1970 but restored the ban two months later, and an attempt to allow it in 2004 died after a public outcry.
The lawsuit says one in four children born on the reservation suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The average life expectancy is estimated between 45 and 52 years, the shortest in North America except for Haiti, according to the lawsuit. The average American life expectancy is 77.5 years.