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Following Alcohol Complaints, Governor's Office Proposes Meeting With Napaskiak Leaders

Mar 9, 2018

Governor Bill Walker signs HB 141 at Bethel's Yuut Elitnaurviat surrounded by high school students from the Kuskokwim Learning Academy on August 29, 2017.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

Updated Friday, March 9 at 6:00 p.m.: Inspired by the Napaskiak Tribal Council, the village of Marshall issued its own resolution Friday afternoon. Tribal council members urged Governor Walker to declare a state of emergency in their community, too.

Bethel’s liquor store and has contributed to an increase in alcohol-related crime in Marshall, said Tribal Administrator Nick Andrew. But the real problem, he said, is the village has no way of coping with it. Beyond occasional visits from State Troopers, Marshall hasn’t had a police force—or any other law enforcement—in over a decade.

"We have a generation of children, and they have no idea what a police department is," Andrew said. "You all take police officers for granted, and once they're taken away there’s an uneasiness that envelops the community."

Andrew said state budget cuts meant Marshall could no longer afford law enforcement.

Original article, published Friday, March 9 at 2:00 p.m.:

The governor’s office plans to meet with leaders from Bethel and Napaskiak to discuss the impact of legal alcohol sales on Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities.

Governor Walker's staff proposed the meeting in response to a resolution issued by Napaskiak’s Tribal Council this week, which urged the governor to declare a state of emergency in their region. According to tribal council members, Bethel’s liquor store has led to a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths that they compare to the state’s opioid crisis.

Tribal Administrator Sharon Williams said that five Napaskiak residents have died in alcohol-related incidents since Bethel legalized alcohol sales in 2016. That’s a little over 1 percent of the village’s total population.

Williams said that she hasn’t heard from the governor’s office yet. Governor Walker’s Press Secretary, Austin Baird, said that they plan to iron out the details of a meeting with Bethel and Napaskiak leaders within the next two weeks.

"There’s been a lot of attention to the opioid epidemic, and that’s certainly an enormous issue, but alcohol has been a constant issue," said Baird. "It’s a very painful and complicated issue, and that I would expect to be a part of the conversation."

Baird added that questions surrounding Bethel’s liquor store specifically should be addressed at a community level.