NORTH CENTER — Half Acre has renamed its Heyoka India Pale Ale brew after receiving complaints from members of the Native-American Lakota people.
The brewery's founder Gabriel Magliaro said the name change for the "hugely popular beer" was motivated by outreach from "dozens" of members of the Lakota community who found use of the word in this context offensive.
"I’m not sure who exactly got word of it in the community, but it was a pretty effective initial onslaught of reaching out to us in a lot of different ways," Magliaro told DNAinfo. "We were able to have a lot of very positive conversations, and it was actually just as much positive feedback ... [as] there was initial concern or negative comment."
Magliaro says he was originally drawn to the Lakota word out of "fascination" with "the contrarian aspect" of the spirit it represents.
In the Lakota language, heyoka refers to a sacred clown, an individual who's one part trickster, one part shaman. Such "rebel spirits" often exhibit contrarian behavior — claiming to be cold when it's hot, riding their horse backwards, etc.
On the one hand, heyoka reinforce cultural norms by showing how not to act while at the same time raising questions about subjects considered too sensitive for others to broach.
Patty Wetli explains why the Lakota people were upset:
The beer will now be known as Senita India Pale Ale — Senita is a type of cactus found in Mexico and Arizona — with new cans, cartons and tap handles rolling out this week, according to the brewery. Magliaro said the brew itself will not be changed in any way.
The Lakota are one of seven Sioux tribes, primarily located in the Dakotas. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull are among the most notable Lakota.
Magliaro said the conversation boiled down to ownership of the word, and the decision for him was easy — Lakota representatives said that "more or less that it’s theirs, and ultimately, they’re right," he said.
The former Heyoka beer was introduced in 2013 and earned Half Acre its first-ever medal — a silver — at last October's Great American Beer Festival. A seasonal beer for the brewery, it's been sold under the Heyoka name for about two months this season after its debut last winter, Magliaro said.
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