High school graduation is an accomplishment worth celebrating for all students. But for some the achievement is that much sweeter, because of the obstacles they had to overcome. KTOO profiles profiles a graduate of Juneau’s Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School, who has been living on her own for about a year.
The sponsor of the Safe Families and Villages Bill, U.S. Senator Mark Begich, said the bill encourages tribes to work with the state of Alaska to develop agreements on tribal court jurisdiction. But he said it also gives tribes a way to take on added responsibilities through an agreement with the federal government.
Begich, a Democrat, says that takes away the state’s veto authority over tribal jurisdiction that was in an earlier version of the bill.
“What I tried to is to make sure that the law was stronger in the sense of the relationship it would have with the Department of Justice vs. the state of Alaska because the state of Alaska, as you know doesn’t recognize tribes,” he said. “They wanted total control over making the decision. And we felt that was not appropriate.”
Native American Rights Fund staff attorney Natalie Landreth said another important part of the bill is it amends the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to delete section 910, which had been inserted by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican.
“It had this ridiculous way that it was formed where it said we’re going to add a savings clause, meaning you can do everything that you were doing before, but then it said ‘except Alaska.’ and that ‘except Alaska’ muddied the waters so heavily that someone like me who litigates could not have explained to a court in a coherent way ‘your honor, there’s a savings clause and an exemption and here’s what it means.’ you cannot have both,” Landreth said.
Landreth said tribes need the added authority because the state provides inadequate law enforcement in dozens of villages.
“Previous to the VAWA reauthorization, in 2012, tribes have been exercising a lot of civil authority over domestic violence in their villages” Landreth said. “Because people often forget, they’re often the only entity there, the only government entity for hundreds if not thousands of miles.”
Attorney General Michael Geraghty said the goal of the Safe Families and Villages bill is laudable.
“I certainly agree with the goal which is to try to reduce crime and improve public safety in these communities,” Geraghty said. “And the state’s working on that in conjunction with tribes and has been for several months. So I agree with the goal but I disagree with the means by which this bill tries to accomplish that.”
Geraghty said the state has been working with Tanana Chiefs Conference for the past couple of months to create an agreement that would accomplish the same goal, with one caveat.
“It does empower tribes to deal with offenses, certain offenses, enumerated offenses within their communities if the offender has agreed to be diverted to tribal court,” Geraghty said.
Murkowski had supported an earlier version of the bill but didn’t sign on as co-sponsor of this version. The Safe Families and Villages Act now awaits scheduling on the Senate floor.
Updated at 2:45 p.m.
Residents of the Funny River Road community were allowed to start returning to their homes as state fire officials lifted the evacuation order at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Although all evacuation orders have been suspended at this time, residents of the community were cautioned that there is still an evacuation advisory in place which could result in another evacuation order should conditions change.
The fire is burning on more than 182,200 acres and is considered 30 percent contained. Firefighters will focus attention Tuesday on the northeast end of the fire near the Kenai Keys subdivision, where Monday, the blaze jumped the Kenai River at the west end of Skilak Lake.
Fire breaks and bulldozer lines have been completed for much of the western end of the Funny River fire.
Kasilof is not currently under immediate threat. Fire officials say cooler temperatures, diminished winds and rain are assisting their efforts, but it is estimated that rain would need to fall for three days resulting in at least a half an inch of rain before it would start to impact the fire.
Six-hundred-eighty-nine firefighters are battling the fire. No major injuries have been reported.
Two community meetings will be held this evening. An information gathering at 6 p.m. will be held at the Tustumena School and at 8 p.m., locals can attend a meeting at the Soldotna High School.
Smoke from the Funny River wildfire is being reported as far north as Fairbanks.
Earlier story below—-
The fire was pushed by winds again yesterday, but those winds were diminishing. The fire has turned back on itself and away from Kasilof. It has expanded northwards towards Skilak Lake.
Some people have been able to return to their properties after evacuations from the Funny River and Kenai Keys areas.
A number of facilities were being used as shelters.
The fire has taken something more than 175,000 acres and there are hundreds fighting it.