The Law As A Weapon Against Alcoholism


In an effort to combat the ravages of alcoholism, the Tulalip Grassroots Committee, an organization of members of the Tulalip Tribes, will soon present an initiative to the Tribe’s General Council calling for a ban on the sale of beer, wine, and other alcohol anywhere outside the Quil Ceda Village shopping area on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. The new legal policy would also prohibit restaurants and businesses within the reservation from advertising alcohol on signs. If the initiative is approved, the state-run liquor store near the Tulalip Casino would be forced to remove alcohol advertising signs from its window, and two stores near the reservation's western edge would no longer be allowed to sell beer and other alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 12 percent of all Native American deaths are linked to alcohol, roughly twice the rate of alcohol-related deaths for the rest of the U.S. population. "Indians have a lifelong battle with alcohol," said Les Parks, who leads the Tulalip Grassroots Committee.

Tribes across the country have previously attempted to utilize legal measures to reduce alcohol consumption by Tribal members, with mixed results. In 2000 the Yakama Nation banned alcohol sales on Tribal lands and unilaterally imposed a tax on alcohol sales on private land within the reservation, drawing fury from non-Native business owners and the State of Washington, which holds a monopoly on the sale of bottled liquor. The history of Prohibition within the United States reflects the difficulty of using the law alone to battle socio-medical problems on a broad scale. While legal measures may heighten awareness of issues and raise obstacles to obtaining alcohol, the complexity of alcoholism in Native communities will undoubtedly require the concerted effort of legal scholars, social scientists, and traditional healers to resolve.

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Christina Wygant - March 9, 2009 1:53 PM

While banning the sale of alcohol outside the Quil Ceda Village shopping area on the Tulalip Indian Reservation may be intended to avert the potentially increasing rates of consumption of alcohol and alcoholism, it is doubtful that this initiative will do more than anger local business owners and increase alcoholic beverage sales in Quil Ceda Village. Though it is important to address a need for heightened awareness, an initiative providing facilities for the necessary physical, emotional, and spiritual support to aid in the healing of individuals inflicted with this disease could have staggering effects. By recognizing that an economic initiative cannot solve a socio-medical disease, individual steps can be taken to help those in need.

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