FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Tanana Chiefs Conference has lifted a ban on alcohol sales at the Chief Peter John Tribal Hall here in efforts to operate the building at a profit.
The vote came Thursday after convention delegates were told the hall had lost $250,000 in its first year of operations because of a decision to ban alcohol use at non-Tanana Chiefs events.
Delegates also voted to appropriate $1 million to construct a new building, what they called a ''true'' tribal hall for Native gatherings. Alcohol will not be served in the new facility.
Despite the latter move, Chief Peter John, Minto's traditional leader, asked that his name be stripped from the front of the existing building.
The 25-to-13 alcohol sale vote followed two hours of closed-door debate. Those who were not delegates or tribal members stood outside in the March sunshine speculating about the turmoil within. The doors to the meeting room were reopened as the tally was called.
After the vote, people from Minto gathered around John, a tall, stooped man wearing a beaded, fur-trimmed hide jacket and a black baseball cap. Extended family consulted with the white-haired chief, who is in his 90s, and passed him a cordless microphone.
A hush fell over the crowd as the elder spoke.
''There's something that really bothers me that's concerning the Tanana Chiefs,'' John said, and then continued in Athabascan. A few moments later, John's brother-in-law, Neal Charlie, translated.
''Young people don't listen,'' Charlie began. ''He wants to get his name off of this place here if you're going to sell liquor here.''
The people have lost their Indian ways and are thinking only about money, Charlie said, translating.
''Some of you vote like you don't understand what's going on here,'' Charlie said. ''You better think about your grandchildren.''
Not only has the hall been operating in the red, but it has been perceived as a place that's too expensive even to hold Native events, some of the delegates said.
''It was hoped to be a place for Fairbanks (Native) people to have a place to gather,'' said Mitch Demientieff, Nenana tribal chief and TCC delegate.
Demientieff supported lifting the alcohol ban to spur interest in hall rentals.
The announcement that the traditional chief wanted his name taken from the building was not unexpected, but its repercussions were heavy among the delegates.
TCC President Steve Ginnis hung his head at the podium in front of the room.
''I am very saddened by this and I will honor the chief's request and I will have his name removed from this building,'' Ginnis said.
The chief's name will be installed instead on the Tanana Chiefs office building across the street, Ginnis said.
That seemed to take some of the sting out of the alcohol vote for the chief and his family.
''I think the TCC building should have a good name,'' Geraldine Charlie, Neal Charlie's wife, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The alcohol vote tore an obvious schism through the gathering, but after some words of regret and conciliation, the delegates continued moving through their list of resolutions and adjourned shortly after 6 p.m.
Philip Titus, a TCC delegate from Minto, said he voted against lifting the alcohol ban in support of his chief, who has opposed alcohol use for many years.
''He saw the devastation of alcohol all through his life in the community of Minto,'' Titus said.
Alcohol has robbed the village of its youth, vigor and in some cases, the lives, of many residents, he said.
Although Thursday's vote caused pain for Minto, it will be forgiven, Titus said. ''We have to forgive to heal,'' he said.
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