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BOOZE SALES ON RESERVATION TARGETED

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While Navajo tribal police are cracking down on bootleggers on the reservation, officials are considering solutions to the rampant problem.

During the past two weeks, police have searched the homes of six bootlegging suspects in the Kayenta and Chinle areas, and have seized several hundred bottles of beer and wine.Tribal law prohibits the sale of any kind of alcoholic beverage on the reservation.

"This is just the beginning," tribal police public information officer, Sgt. Francis Bradley, said of the seizures. He said police will continue to arrest people until they stop selling alcohol.

Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald, who was suspended because of charges of corruption, has called bootlegging the most popular small-business operation on the reservation.

In an area where 30 percent to 40 percent of the work force is unemployed, many families make most or all of their income from selling beer and wine, according to police.

Police estimate that almost every one of the 109 chapters on the reservation has at least one full- or part-time bootlegger, some of whom make as much as $60,000 a year.

Besides enforcing the law, police have also suggested that communities consider rescinding the homesite leases of convicted bootleggers. Homesite leases are granted to individual Navajos by the tribe, which owns all reservation land.

Some tribal officials have said the tribal courts should place stiffer penalties on bootleggers convicted more than once.

The courts currently can sentence habitual bootleggers to up to six months in tribal jail. However, jail time is rarely imposed, and when it is, it usually is for a month or two, said Virgil Wyaco, president of the St. Michaels chapter.

Bradley said one solution would be to legalize and tax liquor sales. The tribe could set up its own outlets and use taxes collected from the sale to provide alcohol-abuse counseling.