April 8, 2020  Last Update: November 12, 2019, 4:01 pm

Oglala Sioux Decide To Sell Themselves Alcohol

Editor’s Note: If you can’t stop the white man from selling alcohol to your people, you suffer high unemployment as a community, and your people are willingly spending all their cash on alcohol. Meanwhile, you can’t afford to provide treatment services for the resulting alcoholism. Why not take over the alcohol distribution business and give your own people retail jobs selling alcohol to themselves? You would be providing jobs and generating tax income that could be spent on treatment services and education.

Maryanne James, who is herself of Native American heritage and spent a lot of her youth in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, tells us what really happened:

The Oglala Sioux nation has just passed a public referendum that will change a century old law  banning the possession and sale of alcohol on Pine Ridge Reservation. The vote was close, with 1,843 in favor of ending the ban and 1,678 against it.

If you can't beat em, join em! Sioux nationalize alcohol trade on Indian reservation.

It sounds like alcohol will continue to be a source of division in the Oglala Sioux nation. Those against allowing alcohol on the reservation feel legalizing it is opening the door to the devil. They speak of the devastation to the tribe and its families that has been caused by alcoholism related spouse & child abuse. They talk of fetal alcohol syndrome affected children and other alcohol and drug related diseases. They talk of the lives lost to alcoholic depression induced suicides, murder and traffic accidents caused by alcohol and drug impaired drivers.

Section of the draft law that outlaws non-controlled alcohol and establishes an tribal alcohol control board

Section of the draft law that outlaws non-controlled alcohol and establishes an tribal alcohol control board

Those in favor of allowing alcohol sales point out that tribal members have never stopped drinking. In fact, the sale of liquor to Oglala Sioux made neighbors in Whiteclay, Nebraska rich. With an estimated unemployment rate of over 80%, Pine Ridge is one of the poorest reservations in the country. Allowing alcohol sales could possibly increase tax revenues, to fund much-needed treatment centers, and allow expansion of the Prairie Wind Casino operation. And more jobs.

Each side of the issue will continue to stand by their opinions, but we can’t predict whether or not they will pull together as a nation and as a community,  to turn something bad into something good.  This could be an opportunity for the tribe to disprove the old saying “Indians need government caretakers”.

If they can set aside the arguing and instead, band together to employ traditional and modern methods to heal those already in the clutches of addiction… If they can use traditional and modern methods to teach, guide, educate the children of their nation… Great good can come about for the Oglala Sioux and all Native American communities. If this community can find the strength to overcome stereotypes and demonstrate their strength.


  • ref (NY Times) Pine Ridge Reservation Votes to End Alcohol Ban
  • ref  (John’s Addiction) Oglala Sioux Tribe Sues Beer Companies for $5M
  • Oglala Lakota Nation website
  • Draft Law Oglala Sioux Nation Alcohol Beverage Code (PDF)


  1. M.J. Matteroli says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the prespective of the writer especially since she not only researched well, but has first hand knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

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