WMAT votes no to lifting alcohol ban

Notifying WMAT Tribal members of the results of council’s April 12 vote on lifting the ban on alcohol on the Reservation, Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood posted the results on her public service Facebook page.

WHITERIVER — An April 12 Breaking News post on White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood’s public service Facebook page stated that lifting the alcohol ban for the Tribe failed in a 6 to 4 vote.

The ban on the sale of alcohol was first announced on June 22, 2020 in a press release which began by stating that the Tribe was “ taking wide-scale action in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 on the Fort Apache Reservation.” Within that same press release it stated, “The sale and use of alcohol is banned on the Reservation for the rest of the year, with “strict penalties” in place for violating the order.”

Lee-Gatewood had taken to social media on April 10 to get feedback from Tribal members regarding their feelings on lifting the alcohol ban.

“Next week our tribal council will be voting on the complex issue of whether or not to re-introduce alcohol sales on our lands. Your voice matters! Please take a moment to answer this quick survey before Monday,” wrote Lee-Gatewood, who also left a number for those not using social media to call and leave their comments.

The Chairwoman wrote a commentary of sorts which asked people what they had noticed during the months without alcohol. She laid out some pros and cons for people to consider and affirmed her recognition of their right to their opinion.

In the end, she wrote, “This decision will not be an easy one and there are varying opinions. Prayer will certainly help, and thank you to all.”

On April 12 Lee-Gatewood posted three pie charts which showed 991 responses to the survey resulting in 46.2% saying no to lifting the ban and 50.2% saying yes to lifting it. There was no reference as to the remaining 3.6% of the chart. The second pie chart was based on 990 responses, not 991, and indicated that 32.8 % of the responses were from males; 62.5% from females and 4.7% preferred not to say. The third pie chart showed that of those who responded to the survey, 83.8% were Tribal members and 16.1% were not.

According to Lee-Gatewood’s Facebook post, the Tribe has 17,000 members.

Lee-Gatewood’s Chief of Staff Jerry Gloshay responded to the council’s vote by saying, “It would mean a bit of economic stimulus, but in the bigger picture it is harmful to the individual, harmful to the family and is overall harmful to the Tribe.”

The alcohol ban remains in effect, for now.

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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