WMAT council lifts alcohol ban

WHITERIVER — The White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) held a council meeting on June 30 and passed a resolution which lifts the ban and permits the sale of alcohol — beer and wine — at specific locations. Additionally, council passed a resolution for general welfare assistance to Tribal members who can show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and the first cases of the Delta variant were confirmed on the reservation.

The resolution which lifts the ban on the sale of alcohol was officially sign on July 2. It pertains to Hon Dah Resort and Casino and its convenience store, Sunrise Park Resort, and the convenience stores at the lakes managed and operated by Apache Enterprise which includes Hawley Lake, Horseshoe Lake and Reservation Lake.

Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood stated on her Saturday, July 3, Facebook show that “anything south of Hon Dah, even Forestdale — that way, cannot have alcohol still, but we are doing the enterprises up in the Northern part of the reservation, so please be aware.”

The council also issued a General Welfare Assistance Payout resolution with provisions. The American Rescue Plan Act 2020 (APRA) allows for household assistance to those facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council will give a $2,000 assistance to Tribal members who are 18 years and older as of April 11, 2021, who have been fully vaccinated, as well as for those who meet the vaccination deadline of Dec. 31. In order to qualify, a Tribal member must show proof of vaccination to the Tribal treasurer.

Lee-Gatewood said there are a lot of people who are less than pleased about the vaccine issue.

“Per our health and safety code, which has been in effect for over 40 years, it has a mandate in there that says that nobody shall refuse vaccine with advice from the medical officer — a vaccine that will help with smallpox and any other contagious disease — and, COVID-19 is a contagious and deadly disease and falls under that umbrella,” said Lee-Gatwood.

Lee-Gatewood said that Whiteriver Indian Health Service (IHS) has offered to answer any question regarding the vaccine and its effects, and to provide counseling for those who may be unsure or hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

“Vaccinations are very important. And, I know everyone has their personal feelings about it, but in the end, it is what has calmed down the virus to a level, and it’s still here... So, we need to be more vigilant to look out for one another and paying attention to the protocols... we are all trying to look out for one another so just make sure that you handle that accordingly,” said Lee-Gatewood.

On July 7, WMAT Emergency Operations Policy Coordinator Derrick Leslie issued a Public Health Notification to the Tribe.

“Today the White Mountain Apache Tribe reported the first two confirmed cases of the Delta variant on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation from a COVID-19 test sample obtained at the Whiteriver Service Unit in mid-June. Two unvaccinated community members were tested and their results were confirmed to be the Delta variant of COVID-19. These two community members have since recovered and are doing well. This variant of the COVID-19 is becoming the dominant variant in the United States.

“This increase in the Delta variant is worrisome as it is more transmissible and can cause severe illness. However, current reports indicate the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious COVID-19 related illness. Residents are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

A face mask mandate is still in effect on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and Tribal members are asked to continue practicing social distancing, hand washing, and other precautionary measures.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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