BY LINDSEY X. WATCHMAN, General Council Chair
T’ac leeheype oykalo himiyuume kaa laawtiwama (good day relatives and friends).
At the Elders’ listening session held on October 20, 2023, at Wildhorse, Mr. Richard Sam asked a question about the Board’s recent decision to expand alcohol sales on the Umatilla Reservation…specifically at Arrowhead Truck Plaza.
Mr. Sam stated he was unaware of an online survey, nor the results of. This surprised me, as I thought General Council had done a thorough job of advertising, then gathering member votes (352 total) and comments (979). My next charge was to package our polled sentiments, then pass the ball back to the BOT to decide. That to date has occurred.
However, I realized at that moment I had not reported the results to the full membership. I assumed the 100+ members who did attend the October 20th 2022 GC meeting, would spread the news via the good ‘ol moccasin telegraph. It did not. Thus, I must apologize to each of you who have similar sentiments of not being fully informed, for this oversight.
In September 2005, the People by referendum narrowly voted in favor of allowing alcohol sales at Wildhorse properties, thus losing our “dry rez” status. A liquor code was approved, and a set amount of $105,000 a year was to be deposited into a Yellowhawk Substance Abuse Fund, specifically to design an A&D program with treatment and prevention services.
In 2010, the BOT decided itself to start using a percentage (5%) of total sales instead of a set dollar limit. For the 2024 budget, the amount is projected to be north of $167,000. These funds will support the sober transitional house, horse equine program, as well as $30,000 for the BAAD and other youth / family tournaments throughout the year.
Thus, any expansion of alcohol sales today would also increase the amount sent to Yellowhawk.
The 13-question, 8-minute survey was open for seven weeks spanning two General Council meetings, with a final voting opportunity just before closing the polls. The results were then provided LIVE during the October 20, 2022 session.
Respondents could remain anonymous, and separately voted (yes or no) for each location: Arrowhead, Mission Market and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute. A comment box was provided so members could share why they voted so. Over 1,000 written comments were submitted, both for and against expansion, and how the funds should be spent. All comments were sent to the BOT for their consideration. The final results were:
|Yes||186 = (53%)||143 = (41%)||122 = (35%)|
|No||166 = (47%)||207 = (59%)||227 = (65%)|
In closing, alcohol is a sensitive and divisive topic for our community, especially with its overwhelmingly [negative] impacts over the years on the health, safety and wellness of every single Tribal Member.
As your current General Council Chairman, it is my responsibility to ensure you are fully engaged and well-informed. Thank you Mr. Sam (whom I respect) for bringing my imprudence to attention, and I apologize for not providing this information to the full membership sooner.
Please feel free to reach out to me at (541) 314-3488 or contact Secretary Shawna Shillal-Gavin for council transcripts, poll results and/or to view member comments.