KYUK AM

Walker Administration Sends Delegation To Marshall

Jun 13, 2018

Governor Bill Walker signs HB 141 at Bethel's Yuut Elitnaurviat surrounded by high school students from the Kuskokwim Learning Academy on August 29, 2017. The Walker Administration sent a delegation to Marshall last week in response to the community's ongoing public safety crisis.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

Governor Walker’s office sent a delegation to Marshall last week to discuss an ongoing public safety crisis that prompted a request for a declaration of emergency. According to the Governor’s press secretary, Austin Baird, the trip was a direct response to that resolution, which was issued by Marshall’s tribal council last spring.

Marshall has made do without police for most of the past two decades, and crime related to the opioid and alcohol epidemics is taking a toll there.

"Living in a community without public safety, there’s a feeling of uneasiness," said Tribal Administrator Nick Andrew Jr. in a previous interview with KYUK. "You never know what’s going to happen." He added that Marshall needs more state funding to fix the problem, which was a matter for the state legislature.

Three months later Marshall still doesn’t have any police, but the situation is improving. The community just hired its first Village Police Officer in years; she’s a former Village Public Safety Officer from St. Mary’s and starts work next month.

The delegation from the Governor’s office helped the community feel that it had been heard. A total of eight personnel under the auspices of the Army National Guard, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Public Safety, and the Alaska State Defense Force flew into the village last week. Over the course of two days, Tribal Administrator Andrew says that there was a series of meetings in the school gym.

"The good thing that came out of it was it got people talking about the opioid crisis in the village," said Andrew. "It got people talking about the absence of law enforcement, and [it got] people to realize that we need an ongoing commitment for things to fall into place."

The delegation didn’t make any promises or commitments, Andrew says, but he says that the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s representative at the meetings acknowledged that the organization needs to raise public awareness about the opioid crisis. Andrew also says that a group of high-ranking State Troopers visited Marshall a few days before the delegation arrived. He says that they acknowledged that Y-K Delta villages are underpoliced and committed to doing everything they could to police Marshall more actively.