Photo courtesy
A brewery in Chicago renamed their beer 'Heyoka' to 'Senita' after the American Indian Movement informed the company that a 'heyoka' is a sacred individual in Lakota culture.

Chicago Brewery Renames 'Heyoka' Beer to 'Senita' Following Talks With AIM

Simon Moya-Smith

A Chicago-based brewery renamed one of its beers Monday after a Native American group there called for it to be changed.

Half Acre Beer Company retired the name of its award-winning 'Heyoka' brew to 'Senita' after the American Indian Movement informed the company the word is, in fact, a sacred individual in Lakota culture, Chuck Sudo of The Chicagoist reported.

"What a heyoka is ... is a healer," a Lakota elder who asked to remain anonymous told ICTMN. The elder requested to be unidentified because heyokas -- thunder beings -- are, themselves, publicly unidentifiable, he said. They cannot tell people they are heyoka.

"Nobody is supposed to know who we are. That's why we wear the mask," he said. "[We] see the world with different eyes. [We] don't walk in balance; [Heyokas] walk out of whack because [they are] tasked with seeing the world as it is -- out of whack. ... The word translates to 'sacred clown'."

Walter "Greywolf" Ruiz told The Chicago Tribune that to name a beer 'Heyoka' is highly offensive given the impact of alcoholism in Indian country since Europeans first introduced alcohol to North American indigenous communities.

"Heyoka is a very, very important figure and very sacred," Ruiz told Josh Noel of the Tribune. "Considering the devastation alcohol has caused for [N]ative people, it was a slap in the face. It was like naming a beer after the pope, or Jesus beer."

Half Acre founder Gabriel Magliaro told the Tribune that he did not hesitate to change the name of the beer.

"As soon as we understood that this was a thoughtful outreach and not just some random person somewhere annoyed about something, there was no hesitation. It's their word," Magliaro said.

Ruiz said he feels the naming was unintentional, but that the blunder is indicative of a society unfamiliar with Native American culture.

"People just don't understand our culture and traditions, and they take certain aspects without thinking," Ruiz said. "That's what happened in this case. It wasn't intentional. When we explained the situation to them, they were very in favor of changing it."

The new name of the beer, 'Senita', derives from a cactus in southwest Arizona.

The Chicagoist reports Half Acre Beer is replacing tap handles in pubs throughout the city and are packaging the beer with new 'Senita' labels this week.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page