Though Pine Ridge President Bryan Brewer has publicly opposed lifting the Alcohol Ban that exists on his reservation, he says that since the people have voted to allow alcohol, he wants to take it all the way. In a recent interview on the Native Trailblazers radio show, Brewer said that since his people have spoken, the tribe will take the steps necessary to manufacture, distribute and retail alcohol.
“The people have spoken,” said Brewer. “They have voted to have alcohol on the reservation so I respect the vote of the people and my job now is to make sure that we do it right, and that the protocols of the law are followed.”
Brewer says if the people want to have the freedom to drink, he wants all the proceeds for the tribe.
“If we are going to do this and if our people are going to suffer, I want all of the money. I am going to be greedy here and we are going to manufacture it, distribute it and retail it. If I have to join forces with other tribes to do this I am going to do it and I am determined to do this right. All money should go back to our people to service their needs,” he said.
Brewer also expressed frustration as to how the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska – a town that sits on the border of Pine Ridge and sells millions of dollars’ worth of alcohol to the tribe each year – benefits from the selling to tribal members. He says the actions would put a serious dent into the sales of Whiteclay.
“The tribes do not sell alcohol, but they receive taxes from Whiteclay. The state of Nebraska gets about $235,000 a year in taxes and so does Rosebud, if I was to get that amount here in Pine Ridge, I would be able to hire four or five counselors for 40,000 people and that's it. That is not going to cut it.”
Brewer says he wants more than tax money; he wants the profits to help tribal members. The frustration has sparked him to take action since the referendum vote to lift the alcohol ban.
“I discovered there is a three tier system (for providing alcohol), which means you can either manufacture it, distribute it or retail it. But you can only do one. But I figure, if we are going to do it, we are going to do it right and I am going to do all three to create jobs,” he said.
Brewer also said that though his actions may dictate a form of support for alcohol, Brewer maintains that he is against it.
“In our tribal Constitution, alcohol is against the law. I am against it because alcohol has affected 100 percent of our families. I do not know one family on the reservation that has not been affected by alcohol. A number of our people have been killed because of it and Whiteclay is a horrible place. People are dying up there,” Brewer said.
“I am worried about selling alcohol and that everything is going to go up. Consumption will go up, the abuse of our children and our women is going to go up. Yes, all the research data shows that it will go back down, but how many more children are we going to have to bury? Last month I went to a funeral of a baby that was murdered because of alcohol. These are some of the reasons I fought it,” Brewer said.
“But our people made the decision that they have a right to decide whether they drink or not. But A lot of money that is raised can go toward education, healing and maybe we can give our young ones a place to see that there is a healthy choice.” he said.
Brewer says the tribe is getting a task force together to review liquor codes and policies that will have to be recognized.
“We all need to go over this and make sure everything is right. I have a copy of the codes from other reservations that do sell alcohol and we will be going through this also,” he said.
“I've been told I can't do it, and people think I was joking. But these are things I'm looking into.”