Jail-less Alaska Village Just Runs the Bad Guys Out

Banishment is making a comeback in Tanana
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2014 3:24 PM CDT
Jail-less Alaska Village Just Runs the Bad Guys Out
In this May 7, 2014, file photo, residents make their way along First Street in Tanana, Alaska. Without a jail or armed law enforcement, the isolated Alaska village is turning to banishment.   (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman, File)

Imagine you live in a remote Alaskan village of 250 souls with no jail, no cops, and just an unarmed public safety officer to keep the peace. That's the situation in Tanana, and after two state troopers—who are a phone call and a plane ride away—were recently killed while responding to a call there, the Athabascan Indian tribal authority in the tiny village is going old-school in its quest to keep out the riffraff. While the alleged shooter is being dealt with in the justice system, the town's leaders are looking to banish two other men connected to the killings. "This is the only way we have to remove individuals who are—how do we say it?—who are dangerous to members of the community," says the chair of Tanana Village Council.

It's not unheard of in Alaska, and the AP notes that in another community, a suspected drug dealer was met by citizens at the airport and succinctly asked to leave. "We're tired of it, and we're concerned about the future of the community," says one witness of that incident. Some acknowledge that banishment, largely a tribal tradition, is a "slippery slope," but Tanana will ask the state to back its order. "If they do not enforce it, we will enforce it ourselves," says a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund. "We will get a group of men together and go to that person and tell him to leave and to not come back." (Read more Alaska stories.)

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