Albion Monitor /News

Sioux Join "Crazy Horse Malt Liquor" Suit

ROSEBUD, SD -- Citing an unusual 1868 Treaty with a "bad men" clause, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have asked to join the lawsuit against Heileman Brewing Company and others that make "The Original Crazy Horse Malt Liquor," accusing them of exploiting the name against the wishes of the Native hero's descendants and Lakota tribe.

"The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has firmly opposed this misuse of the name of one of our greatest leaders, and by this action the Rosebud Sioux Tribe takes a strong stand in support of Lakota families in the protection of their rights and property," said William Kindle, Rosebud President.

"These beer-makers reached into Lakota country and have taken the name of Crazy Horse"

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe's motion cites federal law, including violations of Indian Arts and Crafts Act, "Misrepresentation of Indian produced goods and products," and of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, commonly known as "the bad men" clause, as grounds for its interest in the lawsuit.

Tribal Attorney Eric Antoine said that the Indian Arts and Crafts Act "prohibits false suggestions that a product is Indian produced, an Indian product, of Indian origin, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe... The federal statute provides for treble damages for violations, and a tribe may file an action on it own and on behalf of tribal members" Antoine noted.

"These beer-makers reached into Lakota country and have taken the name of Crazy Horse for commercial use over their objections of the family, and in violation of federal law," said Robert Gough, Attorney for the Estate. "It is fully appropriate that the Tribe joins with the descendants to protect Indian rights under federal statute and treaty provisions," said Gough.

The Tribe also filed under a little-used provision of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which provides for federal protection of Indian personal and property rights. The Treaty article states in part:

"If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian affairs at Washington City, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained."

Seth H. Big Crow, Sr., Administrator of the Crazy Horse Estate, applauded the Tribe's filing. "United under Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and our other great leaders, we were able to defeat a powerful enemy 120 years ago. We can do the same today." he said, encouraging the other tribes to rally in the defense of Crazy Horse.

Descendants of Crazy Horse reside on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River reservations, and in the Rapid City area of South Dakota.

Washington state and Minnesota have banned the label as offensive

Crow and the Estate have opposed the unauthorized use of the name since it first appeared in stores in 1992. Sold primarily around New York City, the higher-alcohol beer is available in about half of the states.

Washington state and Minnesota have banned the label as offensive, and a similar bill was introduced in the California legislature last year (AB 1521). The California bill died in committee in January, just a month after the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union appealed the ban in that state, claiming that prohibiting the brewer from using the name was an "unconstitutional restraint on freedom of speech."

Attorneys for the brewing companies have also said that the Tribal Courts have no jurisdiction in the matter, because the company officials have not conducted business on the reservation. Crazy Horse Malt Liquor is not sold in states with Lakota reservations, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

The malt liquor is produced by the G. Heileman Brewing Company, Hornell Brewing Company, and by Mr. John Ferolito and Mr. Don Vultaggio, as Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons, of Wisconsin, Maryland and New York.

For additional information and letters of protest, see this Alta Vista search.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor July 20, 1996 (

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