Jul 6, 2022
Sometimes, we can make the mistake of thinking history only applies to things that happened long ago. But as Wisconsin-based beer historian and writer John Harry reminds us, events that happened in our lifetime can still resonate and help inform our collective understanding of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
In his piece titled “Racism in a Can’ — How One Beer Epitomized the Native American Struggle for Treaty Rights,” which was published on April 14, 2022, John describes how one beer, which was inspired as a fundraiser for a white supremacist initiative against Native American rights, changed Wisconsin forever. That beer, known as Treaty Beer, ultimately lost money and steam, but the stain of its racist agenda is still felt in the area today. In fact, in our conversation, John reveals how hard it was to get anyone to speak with him for this story, how he came across Treaty Beer, and why he decided to research its place in regional history. We also talk about how in reality, cancel culture is actually just consequences and accountability, and why education is key to understanding fundamental human issues.
John explains that despite a history of repeated oathbreaking by the United States government, especially towards its Indigenous population, any treaty made in good faith between two sovereign nations is just as legitimate as any other. Beer history is never just about the beer, and there’s plenty of work to be done to continue questioning, fighting, and improving.