Kevin Abourezk: Legal doubts in Oglala Sioux Whiteclay suit

"The Oglala Sioux Tribe filed a civil suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Nebraska seeking $500 million from more than a dozen defendants, ranging from dusty beer shacks in Whiteclay to the nation's biggest breweries. The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated the tribe's alcohol ban as well as Nebraska law by providing alcohol to people who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, knowing they would resell much of that beer to other residents on the reservation.

Frank Pommersheim, a nationally recognized Native law expert at the University of South Dakota, said he has never heard of a tribe suing a beer store owner or that owner's supplier for contributing to the damage caused by the sale to tribal members.

While federal law allows tribes to decide whether they want to allow alcohol to be sold and consumed on reservation land, it doesn't typically allow them to prosecute non-Natives, Pommersheim said. However, federal courts have broad jurisdiction and can decide how best a particular case should be handled, he said.

He questioned whether the Oglala Sioux Tribe's court system is the proper place for the lawsuit to be considered rather than a federal district court, and he wondered whether the U.S. attorney should be prosecuting the case instead."

Get the Story:
Kevin Abourezk: Legal experts raise questions about Whiteclay lawsuit (The Lincoln Journal Star 2/11)

Also Today:
Native Americans: The Tragedy of Alcoholism (The International Business Times 2/11)
People React To Whiteclay Lawsuit (KELO 2/10)

Related Stories:
Kevin Abourezk: Oglala Sioux Tribe in $500M Whiteclay case (2/10)
Oglala Sioux Tribe files lawsuit targeting liquor in Whiteclay (2/9)

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