Youth tell US Attorney General Alaska needs help

first_imgUS Attorney General Loretta Lynch poses with a group of Alaska Native Youth. (Hillman/Alaska Public Media)When US Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Anchorage on Friday, she went beyond just meeting with Alaska Native leaders. She also spoke with the youth.Download AudioThe nine young people who joined her for a roundtable discussion were direct: Alaska, especially rural Alaska, has problems with public safety.24-year-old Cody Pequeño, the youngest member of Chevak’s city and traditional councils, said most police officers in his community don’t really want to fill the roles.“It’s rare that I actually see a police officer join to serve and protect,” he said. “The majority of the time, these police officers are going after these jobs because it’s the only job, the only source of income they can get.”Niviaaluk Brandt from Nome said in her experience, even if law enforcement does show up for an initial call, they don’t follow through.“They will not turn in their paper work. They will not [bring a] charge. There’s no investigation. Everything just stops when you talk to a police officer.”She recounted bits of her experience after she was sexually assaulted, saying police did not listen to her. Similar things happened to her family and friends as well, she said.Brant said from her view point, only a few things get the police to listen. “I’m sorry to say but if you look white enough, you can go to the police and they believe you. And if you don’t, nothing gets done.”Malorie Johnson from Unalakleet said some of the problems exist in Alaska because national leaders don’t understand the state – it’s a beast unto itself. But she said there’s a solution.“We should have the opportunity– we should have the inherent right — to govern ourselves.”First Alaskans Policy Center Director Andrea Sanders coordinated the discussion. She said the attorney general’s office requested the roundtable conversation because President Obama directed all of his cabinet secretaries to meet with Alaska Native youth.Lynch spoke only a few times during the hour-long meeting, each time directly referencing each of the young people’s words from her extensive notes.“While there’s so much wisdom to be gained from our elders, there’s so much truth to be heard from our young people,” she told the group. “The stories that you all have really are the ones that will inform me and my team as we go back and try to make sure the Department of Justice can answer you, can answer your questions, can answer your concerns.”Lynch only made one firm commitment to the young people during the meeting: to carry back a message from Chevak’s Cody Ferguson, who uses comedy to help prevent suicides.“Every time I’m under surveillance at banks or whatever, I always say ‘Hey, Obama!’” he told the group to erupting laughter. “So if you could pass the word along…”“I will tell him that,” Lynch replied once her chuckles subsided.Earlier in the day Lynch announced that the Department of Justice will formally consult with Alaska Native leaders to develop solutions for the state’s public safety challenges. The Department may also create an Alaska-based position focused on Alaska Native engagement.last_img