Students from Creighton University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and at Lincoln, and Creighton Prep announced a boycott of Anheuser-Busch products on January 22 in a kick-start of their “Boycott Bud, Support Pine Ridge” campaign.
Budweiser sales account for 78 percent of all alcohol sold in Whiteclay, Nebraska, a town of 14 people, where four off-sale liquor stores supply millions of cans of beer annually to residents of the adjacent Pine Ridge Reservation.
The student campaign initially targets support from friends and family and then from students of Jesuit universities in the United States to boycott all “Bud” brands, according to David Fuxa, president of the Whiteclay Awareness Student Organization and Creighton University senior.
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities has 28 members, including Creighton, Boston College, Fordham University, Georgetown University, and Marquette.
“We plan to increase pressure through an online petition and social media,” Fuxa said. “In Nebraska, we are benefiting as citizens from the liquor tax revenue.”
According to Fuxa, the student group is asking Anheuser-Busch InBev to end all sales to Whiteclay and establish a rehabilitation center on the reservation. The campaign is requesting a show of solidarity by signing their online petition at WhiteclayBoycott.Blogspot.com.
Since 2009, the students have arranged trips to Pine Ridge, given presentations at schools and lobbied Nebraska state officials concerning the situation at Whiteclay.
In a May 18 letter to Luiz Edmond, president of North America for Anheuser-Busch InBev in St. Louis, Fuxa and Lexie LaMere, daughter of well-known activist Frank LaMere of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, suggested the Belgium-based company purchase the stores in Whiteclay and retire their licenses since Nebraska law does not permit a manufacturer to hold a retail license.
The corporation consistently maintains its activities are consistent with all laws, including laws prohibiting direct sales to consumers.
The students are addressing, however, higher laws of how they feel responsible corporate citizens in this country should act.
The Anheuser-Busch corporation is not always silent in such matters.
In a November 2012 response to the Paramount film Flight that shot Denzel Washington drinking a Bud behind the wheel, Budweiser vice-president Rob McCarthy told the Associated Press, “We would never condone the misuse of our products and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving.”
InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch in 2008 for about $52 billion in cash or $70 a share, according to a New York Times report. The corporate culture, at least in regard to Whiteclay, has not changed, however.
Anheuser-Busch’s long history includes the account of co-founder Adolphus Busch’s Cooperstown, New York residence at Uncas Lodge, “built on the alleged site of the wigwam of the last chief of the Mohicans,” according to the book Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty, by journalists Patrick Hernon and Terry Ganey.
The book also describes Busch’s many other mansions, including Number One Busch Place in St. Louis where he entertained the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt.
Theodore Roosevelt, as 26th President of the United States signed Executive Order –Addition to Pine Ridge Reservation on January 25, 1904, which returned the area of Whiteclay, called the Whiteclay Extension, originally intended as a buffer zone between the Pine Ridge Reservation and unscrupulous traders, to the public domain.
According to research by author Stew Magnuson, Nebraska congressman Moses P. Kinkaid and BIA Commissioner William Jones secured the order behind closed doors with Roosevelt.
The book states that by the early 1900s brewers owned or controlled 75 percent of all saloons in the United States, typically by financing them. The liquor licenses in Whiteclay were established beginning in the 1950s.
The student group alleges many license violations, including serving underage customers and trading liquor for sex. Other violations have been observed by journalists, state and tribal officials, but legal remedies to-date have been unsuccessful.