Myths and Misconceptions – The Challenges Native Americans Face in Craft Beer – Happy Beer Hunting
A Navajo (or Diné) who grew up “on the reservation, nine miles west of Chinle, Arizona,” LT Goodluck is the brewer for the Hellbender Brewing Company of Washington, DC. In 2020, he received a surprising amount of online criticism, both from Native Americans and others, about Hellbender Code Talker, a beer he brewed to honor his grandfather, a Navajo Code Talker during WWII. After the beer was released, various commentators on Facebook and elsewhere online accused Goodluck of doing “anything to make money,” calling the beer “completely sticky”, “dull” and worse.
“There certainly is a relationship between alcohol and Native American tribes, and a long-held stereotype that was placed on Native Americans by colonialism,” Goodluck said. “It’s just hard for Native Americans to get rid of this stereotype. I believe that once we have more Native Americans in the alcohol industry, maybe we can change the stereotypical view that seems to dominate our culture. “
Goodluck says people should look at things objectively, honestly, and positively.
“I understand that there are drug addiction issues among Native Americans, and also within all other cultures. It is certainly something that we have to recognize. But we are also better than that.
While it’s not true that Native Americans have unique issues or a genetic tendency to abuse alcohol, alcohol abuse has certainly devastated many Native American communities, as Goodluck points out. As a result, many reservations are now dry, with bans on the sale or public consumption of alcohol.
But it’s important to remember that nothing happens in a vacuum and that sometimes some people actually try to make it worse. In 2012, the Oglala Sioux tribe sued Anheuser-Busch, other industrial brewers and the four high-volume liquor stores in the small 10-person town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, over the oceans of beer that flooded their neighbor Pine Ridge. Reservation, with estimated incoming volumes of up to 13,000 cans per day. As The Guardian noted in a 2017 follow-up, Pine Ridge is also one of the poorest places in the country, with an estimated unemployment rate of over 80%. Obviously, these two problems are not unrelated.
Ruth-Ann Thorn is the president of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians’ Rincon Economic Development Corporation, which operates the 3R brewery on its tribal lands. While acknowledging the addiction issues among Native Americans, Thorn points to the wide array of other pressures Native Americans experienced, even beyond poverty and unemployment.
“They faced complete and utter genocide,” she said. “Their land was taken away from them, and they were placed most of the time in a very bad area that no one else wanted. When you have this type of situation where you’ve robbed someone of the most important thing, which is their culture and their ability to continue to thrive as a people, and you add alcohol to that mix, the people will abuse it to escape. ”
This kind of situation is certainly not exclusive to Native Americans, she notes.
“It’s if you look at any group of people. I mean, so for me, really, this whole idea of “Natives and alcohol, they don’t mix,” for me, it’s really a prejudice. It is something that should be deleted.