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Tribal members offer ways to address Bethel’s alcohol impact in other communities

By Anna Rose MacArthur/Ben Matheson 5:26 PM March 11, 2017
BETHEL –

After more than a day talking about the impact Bethel alcohol sales were having on their villages, tribal members decided to write a letter to the City of Bethel, asking Bethel City Council members to pass a municipal law requiring Bethel liquor stores to only sell alcohol to customers with Bethel IDs.

The Bethel AC Quickstop is one store selling alcohol in the area. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK

The tribal group also encouraged each Yukon Kuskokwim Delta village to create a safety plan to deal with alcohol impacts in their community, according to a story published by KYUK Public Media. The day prior, Atmautluak Tribal Police Officer Steven Andrew suggested public safety officers intervene before people even begin consuming alcohol.

“Your tribal police officers, they’re not only there to bring people in for protective custody,” he said. “You can utilize them to start talking with people, doing welfare checks, check on people, see how they’re doing.”

Also on Wednesday, Robert Henderson with the Alaska attorney general’s office offered a way towards empowering tribal courts. He explained how tribes can enter into an agreement with the state, like Anvik did in January, to send low-level criminal cases to tribal court instead of state court. Those cases often involve alcohol, and when a listener asked if the Delta could form an intertribal court, Henderson seemed to think so.

“That’s a real possibility to me,” Henderson responded. “So a tribal court to represent multiple communities, multiple villages, all with the same goal, all within the same smaller geographical area — that seems reasonable to me.”

Another issue the group addressed was Sen. Lyman Hoffman’s proposal to create a new kind of energy borough in the region under Senate Bill 18. Three representatives from Akiak – Mike Williams Sr., Ivan Ivan, and Philip Peter — along with Harold Napoleon of Paimute, said that they would travel to Juneau this legislative session to discuss the borough proposal more with the senator.

Lastly, the group decided to meet again on April 4 to discuss an idea that has long appeared on tribal agendas: forming a regional tribal government.

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