Confronting Racism: Treaty Beer Comes to Washington State

Authors: Michelle Aguilar-Wells and Barbara Leigh Smith

Disciplines: Communications, Political Science and Public Administration

Themes: Activism, Intergovernmental Relations, Land, Law and Justice, Leadership, Racism and Prejudice

This case tells the story of disputes and organizing efforts over Indian treaty rights in Wisconsin and Washington state and an attempt to sell a beer in Washington State in the late 1980’s that came to be labeled as “hate in a can.” Dean Crist, a pizza parlor operator from Minocqua, Wisconsin came to Washington with a campaign to stop what he called treaty abuses by American Indians by introducing “Treaty Beer.” This mobilized Indian and non-Indian groups and led to high level political discussions about what should be done. One of the authors of this case was the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs at the time this event occurred.