BETHEL – A leading Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta tribal organization on Thursday urged action to recognize and address the impacts – some called it devastation — from Bethel's two liquor stores on surrounding villages.
Tribal leaders in villages on the Kuskokwim River say problems from alcohol have dramatically escalated since Bethel's first liquor store opened in May. Now a second store is operating.
Young children are getting hold of alcohol. Bootleggers are stocking up at Bethel's stores and sneaking it into dry villages. Overwhelmed tribal police officers are being overrun with calls for help.
The tribal council in Tuluksak, a dry village upriver from Bethel, brought forward a resolution calling for action that, unlike anything else before the Association of Village Council Presidents, passed unanimously. The measure was one of several resolutions approved by AVCP tribes Thursday. Another supports a lawsuit seeking to overturn Gov. Bill Walker's veto of half this year's Permanent Fund dividend amount.
"This alcohol is affecting every village, not just Tuluksak," said Peter Andrew, the Tuluksak tribal council president. "Little kids getting involved with alcohol. It is very bad."
He signs search warrants for tribal police to check boats and incoming planes when there is a tipoff of alcohol on board.
If alcohol is found, it is dumped out and the person is fined, he said.
In Tuntutuliak downriver, nonresidents who bootleg are being banished and those from the village are given one warning, said tribal leader Johnny Evan.
He broke up speaking before the full convention about the harm washing in from Bethel.
Tuntutuliak, another dry village like most on the river, doesn't even have gaming money from pull-tabs or bingo to help pay for a response, Evan said.
He asked that alcohol retailers bear some of the burden.
The resolution was amended to say that liquor stores, and if any are approved in the region, marijuana retailers, should be required to pay money to affected tribes.
"Thank you," Evan said.
The measure also says AVCP should seek funding to address:
* Education on the effect of alcohol and drugs.
* Treatment for chronic alcohol and drug abuse.
* Children in state custody or the tribal child welfare system.
* Public safety, including the need for more tribal or village police.
In addition, the resolution calls for restrictions in alcohol sales to villages outside of Bethel.