Personal Accounts of Rural and Racial Inequity: Follow-Up from the Loretta Lynch Rural Justice Article

Dear Readers,

No introduction is needed to the comments, accounts, and personal testimonies that have surfaced since the article, “When the Alaska Justice System is the Criminal: My Time with Attorney General Loretta Lynch,” was published earlier this week.

But one question for Juneau – while the Legislature worked diligently on an omnibus crime bill this session, will your legislation address such issues? When you are creating these reforms, who do you have in mind? Per some sources, the Alaska Native community constitutes 19% of the State population, yet the State prisons hold 47% of the prison population.   Do you want to do it once, or do you want to do it right?

In the words of the Elizabeth Peratrovich, civil rights leader for all Alaskans, testified regarding the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 the Alaska Legislature, “No law will eliminate crimes but at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.”

Love, Nalliq


“This judicial system we have does not work and it IS criminal. Thank you Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie for sharing this with the Attorney General. I have been petitioning the court for DV protective orders for the past two years and not receiving any sort of protections from; the court, the North Slope Borough police department, Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital for physical proof of abuse, Steevie’s Place or OCS. Abusers have more rights than their victims and it creates a vicious predatory community to live in.” –Eta-Starr Edwardsen, Barrow

“For many years we have been treated this way whether there was an office or not, when there was native on native crime there was always a hesitance to act. On the other hand if it was found that a native committed an act on a non-native then it was treated like the world was ending… We need to do better not for equality but rather for justice!” – Forrest Deano Olemaun, Barrow

“I was downtown Anchorage with family, I went out to smoke, and heard distress calls from some lady. I went to check out what was going on, and found a guy slapping her around. I try to stop it, but the guy turns on me. Well, I’ve had my fair share of altercations, and do my best to keep this guy at bay. His friend jumps in and now I’m fighting these two guys off. The police do their patrol right then, and turn their lights on, and approach us. I say, “Officers! I’m glad you’re here! This guy was beating on this gal…”
I didn’t get a chance to finish my story when the lady denies everything and I get arrested. I’ve been dealing with the court system since last October for trying to be a good samaritan and helping that lady. I have to drive to the courthouse randomly trough out the week to give a breathalyzer and UA, and check in with the court monthly, and complete anger management courses and addiction treatment programs. I now think twice about helping people.” – Anonymous, Barrow

“I worked for the DAs office for 6 years. I have a lot of stories. I think you should talk to the police up here. They are the first responders, and do all of the work and then they are blamed when the case is dropped or plead down. The cops are being f****d over as bad as the community. They are working to keep Barrow safe, only to see violent offenders released because it’s “not worth it” to the state. NSB has a rural justice committee but I haven’t seen a thing come from it. They have members who are currently on probation?! How is that okay?” – Anonymous, Barrow

“I have shared your frustration for years in Ketchikan as I have seen many seemingly airtight cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse fall through the cracks.” –Ketchikan

“I graduated in May 2013, honestly did not want to go to college but my adopted mom really wanted me to go. In my birth family in Seattle, none of them graduated high school or even went to college. So, being the first one to get an education and graduate high school, was a really good feeling to have. In August 2013, I went to college at Kenai Peninsula College and lived in their brand new dorms. There was a small amount of students who were living there, maybe five. After a month, about six days before I turned 19, I was molested by a RA. (Resident Assistant) He was a bit older than me, he was a body builder and worked at the front desk at the dorms. I would go to my classes and he would always smile at me and say hi. We never had a conversation. I never really looked at him or anything. One day, I was doing laundry at the dorms and I decided I did not want to walk up and down the stairs to check my laundry. So, I stayed up stairs and played pool. The guy, came to me when he was working and kept talking to me. He then asked if I wanted to watch a movie later, then asked if I wanted to right at that moment. For a stupid reason, without thinking I said yes. I still feel stupid and embarrassed for not thinking it through what his intentions were. I kept trying to leave his room, but he wouldn’t let me. Kept trying and trying. And, at some point I was able to go. Called my best friend, crying, telling her what happened. I got a ride with a very close family friend to the Troopers station. Had to tell my story over and over again. Being interrogated for over an hour. Then had to get transferred to the Cops, then transferred to the clinic to get looked at. I have never felt.. so embarrassed or uncomfortable in my life. I tried staying in college and only lasted a few months. I was getting harassed by students who did not even know me. I got a restraining order, tried going to court. Tried fighting. I moved away to Palmer, and one day I got a call saying my case was not strong enough. I had to live with that. But, I learned. Did better with my life. Stayed busy and my friends helped me. To me, when I got that call.. my heart shattered to pieces. Which is why, I want to help other people. Get a program started. When Cops couldn’t help me, I didn’t know what to do. To help them heal, everyone is different of how they deal with anger, depression. I want to listen to them. I don’t know how I am going to get there, but one day it will happen. I am looking for to it. ” – Devon Renee Hilts, Sterling

“Very true article. The same person that shared the info with Cordelia sent me a link of criminal cases in Barrow from 4/1/16 to 5/30/16. Of the 165 criminal charges, 124 were dismissed. One certain individual had 20 charges on 7 different occasions. Of those 20 charges, 17 were dismissed. We need to remove the huge KICK ME sign off our backs and get to prosecuting! We need  equity in the justice system! We need a DA in Barrow!” – Mary Patkotak, Barrow

“In a village where police responses are harmfully slow to non-existent… A white man my uncle was generous enough to offer to share his living space with received an immediate response when he called the police. His call was regarding my uncle who had just come back from hiking around the woods and had his gun strapped to his back. There were no threats.. He wasn’t pointing the gun around… He was just living his normal village life. He was arrested with no evidence or chance to give his viewpoint. Again this was is s village where if another native places the call, the response is consistently inadequate.” Lindsey Sam, Interior

Personal accounts have been lightly edited for typographical errors and clarity. All comments were used with permission. Due to the sensitive nature of the comments, some have chosen to remain anonymous.

Do you have a personal account you would like to add to this collection? Find Nalliq on Facebook or email Nalliq at nalliqalaska@gmail.com

Photograph: Wainwright drummers at Kivgiq in Barrow, 2015, Cordelia Kellie

One thought on “Personal Accounts of Rural and Racial Inequity: Follow-Up from the Loretta Lynch Rural Justice Article

  1. As a single woman, I can visit my hometown which I have not done for over 16 years and did not bring up my daughter with family because of how life is back home. I am afraid of living by myself in a Southwestern village and so is my family. I know another woman from the same village who was also told that they should not go back home to live. It is not that we don’t have family to protect us but they can’t 24/7 watch over us. Instead I live in suburban Kenai where I have my own home and have an independent life which I would not be able to accomplish back home.
    I was 24 when I became single and moved to Bethel but asked not to move back home by family because it wasn’t safe. That was half a century ago. It hasn’t changed. I also know about the state, how urban communities feel about rural villages and its people. I also know about urban people who traveled to their designated villages – non-natives…teachers, nurses – who have resigned because of how they were threatened and were terrified for their lives. Nothing was done.
    It needs to change. You are right, this is not how women were treated back then. Men were revered for their part in feeding the family and women were revered in clothing, feeding and becoming mothers. Respect was valued, life was valued.

    The legal/government/federal system is also broken in these urban areas especially for natives and the poor, no one has respect for them and often treat them as non-people. Things need to change. And the only way people can do it is with people like you. And me. And forming our own. Just think of how our corporations were given to us and most systems thought our corporations were going to fail because they were set up to fail. Now look at our Corporations. You. Me. Corporations. Villages. Do Legal/Gov’t/Federal systems need rural villages to make money?? Do they?

    Like

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