Crime & Courts

US attorney general announces $22M to support tribal resources for crime victims on Alaska visit

The nation’s top law enforcement officer visited an Alaska village on Tuesday and met with Alaska Native leaders in a closed-door Anchorage meeting before announcing the U.S. Department of Justice will deliver $22 million to help dozens of Alaska tribes boost their support for crime victims.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, in opening remarks in Anchorage, said he’d come to Alaska to learn about public safety issues. He said the Justice Department recognizes that Alaska Native women and girls have borne the brunt of persistent, high levels of violence in villages.

“We are here today to reaffirm the Justice Department’s commitment to working across the federal government and with the Alaska Native communities to meet these urgent challenges,” said Garland.

The lack of resources to combat crime in rural Alaska has led to a variety of state and federal efforts to address the problem, and occasional visits from top Washington, D.C., officials to see the challenges for themselves. During a visit to a rural village four years ago, former Attorney General William Barr called the lack of police and high rates of violence and sex crimes in rural Alaska an “emergency.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Garland sat beside Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, with more than a dozen other advocates for better rural justice also at the table around him. The meeting was held in a conference room at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Murkowski said in her opening statement that one in three Alaska Native villages have no local police.

She said Garland’s trip stemmed from a discussion they had about the challenges months ago, and he committed to a trip. One thing she wanted to impress on him are the logistical issues that can prevent state or federal authorities from quickly flying into a village to respond to emergencies and investigate crimes.


Garland said seeing that problem firsthand on Tuesday was more instructive than hearing or reading about it.

Though he and his entourage flew into Galena earlier in the day to meet with local officials, a planned visit to another Interior village, Huslia, had to be canceled.

“We had a United States Marshals plane,” he said. “We had a United States Air Force plane. And still, with the weather, we weren’t able to get there.”

“If even the Attorney General of the United States can’t get there, I can’t imagine law enforcement or medical could get there without enormous delay of time, and that’s just really not acceptable,” he said.

Garland said the money for Alaska tribes, from the Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside program created five years ago, will go to 67 Alaska tribal communities. It will help provide range of services for crime victims, including counseling, legal assistance, emergency housing and tribal wellness ceremonies. The grants are part of a $70 million package from the program that includes American Indian tribes, he said.

Garland also said the Justice Department was awarding a grant to the Alaska Native Justice Center, which is working with other Alaska entities to strengthen justice systems in villages. He also said the department earlier this summer launched a program that provides more attorneys and coordinators in Alaska and other states to address the problem of missing or murdered Indigenous people.

Press access to the meeting was tightly controlled. Reporters were allowed only to see Garland and Murkowski’s opening remarks before they had to leave the room for the hour-long discussion with Alaska Native leaders. Garland took no questions from the media before leaving the room.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or