A Ray of Hope the Alaskan Native Nations

Alaska has a system of law enforcement that is considered the most centralized in all of the United States, and while that may serve the bulk of the state well, the Alaskan Native Nations are clearly suffering the consequences of this centralization.

The majority of Alaska’s native populations live in what Alaskans call The Bush, areas that are cut off from the North American road system and have limited access to the State’s Ferry System. In many cases, these areas are only accessible by small aircraft.

Now, when you take into account that in many of these places only the state has jurisdiction over criminal matters yet it often makes no provisions for law enforcement to be placed in those areas, a clear and tragic picture starts to take shape. In many of the villages, known repeat offenders walk freely about, free from prosecution, as there is no one there who is legally empowered to deal with them.

Especially hard hit are the women of the Alaskan Native Nations. Alaska’s rate of domestic violence rises above the national average by ten times, and sexual assault does so at twelve times.

But hope is on the horizon. A bi-partisan entirely volunteer commission has been formed to study and address safety issues in Native American lands. The commission’s report found that the current policy of Alaska is not doing the job. They are now working with Alaska’s two Senators, one of whom last year sponsored a bill, that passed, to empower Tribal courts to criminalize and enforce laws pertaining to domestic violence on their lands. Together, they hope to do the same for Alaska’s Native Nations to start turning things around for the better.