ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS COMMUNITIES MAY KICK PEOPLE OUT
By CRAIG MEDRED
From his home in rainy Ketchikan near the southern end of the Alaska Panhandle, former Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety Dick Burton watches the slow but steady tribalization of the 49th state and wonders what is to become of the land he loved.
Now 80 years old, Burton’s association with Alaska law enforcement stretches back to territorial days. He was commissioner under two very different governors – greenie Jay Hammond, the self-proclaimed “Bushrat” from a homestead in the wilderness on the shores of Lake Clark, and Wally Hickel, the brash developer who helped rebuild Anchorage after the Good Friday earthquake and dreamed big of a future state where business thrived.
Both, however, saw Alaska as a unified, multi-ethnic entity where Alaskans of all shapes, sizes and colors battled their way forward to a future they could all agree on even if it was never perfect. And today, Alaska is splitting into two states – one urban, middle class, diverse and governed by the laws that prevail most everywhere in the United States; the other poor, rural, Native and starting to be governed by its own set of laws.
As the state’s top cop under two governors, Burton admits he was concerned when Togiak, a Native village in far Western Alaska, earlier this year held a 72-year-old white man hostage for days alleging he was illegally selling booze before duct-taping him, loading him onto an airplane and flying him out of the village after a mock trial at which the community voted him guilty.
“Why in the hell didn’t the (Alaska State) Troopers respond to it?” Burton asked in a telephone interview this week. “It’s kind of like if my city council in Ketchikan decided to kick me out.”
Burton has only become more concerned about the situation in the wake of a statement by the Alaska Attorney General that she is going to ignore these sorts of actions.
“We recognize that it presents constitutional challenges,” AG Jahna Lindemuth told the Alaska Dispatch News last week. “But I don’t think it’s the state’s place to approve or disapprove of anything.”