A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that blamed beer-makers and beer stores for chronic alcoholism on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Although alcohol is banned on the South Dakota reservation, the nearby Nebraska town of Whiteclay sold the equivalent of 4.3 million 12-ounce beer cans last year.
U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard agreed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe that the beer stores contribute to alcoholism: “There is, in fact, little question that alcohol sold in Whiteclay contributes significantly to tragic conditions on the reservation. And it may well be that the defendants could, or should, do more to try to improve those conditions for members of the tribe.” However, Judge Gerrard ruled that the federal court does not have jurisdiction to order the Whiteclay stores to change their practices. As the tribe’s attorney noted, Judge Gerrard did not call the case spurious or without legal merit, and his dismissal of the case still allows the tribe to take its claims to state court.