Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - The Rocky Boy tribal council decided Friday to seek the reservation's first liquor license so alcoholic beverages can be served at a tribally owned casino planned at Laredo.
One of two council members who opposed the vote said having a liquor establishment goes against the reasons founders settled at Rocky Boy in the first place. Sale of liquor is now prohibited at Rocky Boy.
“I'm going to oppose this,” council member Jonathan Windy Boy said. “These two men put this reservation here for a reason. That needs to be our focus,” Windy Boy added, pointing to portraits of chiefs Rocky Boy and Little Bear that hang behind the council podium in the council chambers.
Others said having a bar with the casino would bring in much needed revenue and could have minimal impact on the reservation if handled carefully.
“I'm looking on the economic side,” council member Raymond “Jake” Parker said. “It's going to be secluded to one side of the reservation. ... I hope it can be tightly controlled.”
Two other Montana reservations have businesses with liquor licenses, said Gene Huntington, administrator of gambling control for the Montana Department of Justice. Those are the Flathead and Fort Peck Indian reservations.
The process for obtaining a liquor license on a reservation is no different from the process off a reservation. The business could be approved for a license if any are available for Hill County, or it could purchase a license from another business, Huntington said.
Chippewa Cree Community Development Corp. financial manager Bob Swan asked the council Friday to amend reservation law to allow alcohol in specified areas and to zone the casino so that alcohol could be served at its sports bar. He also asked the council to approach Gov. Brian Schweitzer for help obtaining a state liquor license.
He said having a sports bar at the casino could increase the casino's revenue by 25 percent.
Work is scheduled to begin on the 15,000-square-foot casino in the spring.
The building was originally planned as the first phase of a complex that includes a truck stop and 65-unit motel. Swan said the CCCDC Corp. is working on moving up the construction date for the motel so it can be built in the spring, too. A truck stop will be built the following construction season in 2007.
Windy Boy and council member Rusty Gopher voted against seeking a liquor license, while council members Parker, Donovan Stump, Brian “Kelly” Eagleman, Kenny Writing Bird, Ricky Morsette and vice chair Bruce Sun Child voted for it.
Stump said Box Elder, which is not on the reservation, has two bars with liquor licenses already. “I believe our people are going to be responsible,” he added.
Windy Boy said he had several concerns in addition to thinking that a bar is not appropriate at Rocky Boy.
“This is going to tell our youth it's OK to drink. ... We need to ask ourselves why we are here,” Windy Boy said.
Swan said buying an existing liquor license could cost about $175,000. He asked the council to approach Schweitzer for help issuing a license, in which case the cost of a license would be significantly lower.
Swan said with Rocky Boy's population, it should be eligible for a license without having to purchase one.
Elder Videl Stump said today he thinks getting a liquor license on the reservation is a bad idea.
“I think it's bad on account of we have a drug and alcohol problem here on the reservation and they can't do anything about it,” he said. “Why should we have a liquor license? This reservation is supposed to be a dry reservation.”
Stump said Rocky Boy was founded so people could have a place to pray.
“These old people brought us here to live freely and worship the way we want. Those were the two main reasons they brought us here. As the years go by, they keep adding the bad things,” Stump said.
According to the state Department of Revenue, Hill County is entitled to two more liquor licenses.