Following Akiak's Lead, Tuluksak May Also Banish Cooper

Aug 25, 2017

Akiak residents confront Jacques Cooper, who multiple community members claim sold alcohol and marijuana illegally.
Credit Courtesy of Mike Williams Sr.

Two weeks ago, Jacques Cooper was banished from Akiak by the local Native tribe. Now, the Tuluksak tribe might banish him too.

Cooper, age 43, moved to Akiak last year when his wife was hired as a Special Education teacher at the local school. Residents accuse him of bootlegging and selling marijuana to adults and minors in the community. Cooper’s wife was transferred to Tuluksak this year, and recently moved to the village with the couple’s children. Cooper says that he plans to join them there, but now a source in Tuluksak confirms to KYUK that the tribe there plans to banish him too. The source declined to be identified.

According to Tuluksak Tribal Administrator Carol Charlie, Cooper’s banishment from their community is still unofficial.  

When asked to comment on his potential second banishment, Cooper said that it would be more evidence of the power that certain families wield in the region’s villages.

"If they do something like that," he said, "it just illustrates the extent to which these people want to manipulate situations."

Cooper also said that he doubts Tuluksak’s Tribal Council has any evidence that he’s harmed their community, and said that he’s never even been to Tuluksak. When his wife and children moved there, Cooper stayed behind in the Akiak teacher housing temporarily, saying that he needed to deal with the family's livestock.

Cooper is now living in Akiak teacher housing without a lease and the Yupiit School District plans to evict him if he does not vacate the premises by August 28. District Superintendent Rayna Hartz has not yet responded to questions submitted by KYUK.

Some Akiak residents fear that Cooper isn’t planning to leave. According to Akiak Tribal Council member Mike Williams Sr., locals heard that Cooper planned to move his animals to a property in Akiak. He said that he hopes Cooper will leave the village voluntarily when the School District evicts him. One of the reasons the Council issued the banishment order was that they weren’t sure that he would.

In addition to his banishment from Akiak and his potential banishment from Tuluksak, Cooper is also banned from flying with Renfro's Alaskan Adventures. According to Renfro's employee Jet Selman, Cooper was involved in some kind of “altercation” with one of the company’s pilots during the course of his family’s move to Tuluksak. He said that it was not the only incident.

"There were a couple of incidents where our pilots were treated in a very unacceptable fashion," said Selman.

Cooper said that he was unaware that he was banned from Renfro's and needs to call them about it. He said that the issue Selman is referring to involved a disagreement about scheduling, and a misunderstanding about the transportation of Cooper’s belongings to Tuluksak.

KYUK's investigation into this story is ongoing.