ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday she is directing her office to develop a series of consultations with Alaska Native leaders to focus on improving public safety in rural communities of the vast state.
Lynch made the announcement during her first trip to Alaska to discuss issues facing Alaska Natives. Referring to the announced consultations, Lynch said the most productive way to address issues is to seek solutions from the tribes as well as Native leaders.
"The goal of these consultations is to identify concrete actions that we can take now — right now, right here — to address these crucial issues," she said at a news conference.
Lynch said purpose of the daylong visit was to focus on discussing issues facing indigenous communities in the state. Because so many Native villages are remote and far from the state's limited road system, that isolation presents more challenges to addressing them.
Topics discussed during the hour-long round table in Anchorage also included heroin use and criminal justice reform. Afterward, Lynch also noted the disproportionate rate of violence against Alaska Natives, primarily among women.
Lynch said she also will propose creating a committee of stakeholders such as Alaska Native representatives and government entities to address issues important to Alaska Natives. She noted the mission would not just be to look at problems in Native communities, but to also identify solutions that can be turned into actions.
Before the meeting, Native American Rights Fund attorney Natalie Landreth said she planned to address what she called inadequacies in the U.S. Census. The agency's American Community Survey conducted every five years woefully undercounts Native communities in rural areas, she said. That translates to less voting protections for Native communities and less funding across the board, according to Landreth, who planned to propose creating a supplemental survey that could be conducted in person by census representatives sent to communities.
Following the meeting, Alaska Federation of Natives president Julie Kitka noted the problem of heroin use, which is growing among Alaska Natives, including those living in villages.
"We have a unique opportunity to ramp up efforts collaboratively with our federal partners, our state partners, our tribal partners, especially as we deal with such serious concern such as the heroin and opiate epidemic and all related impacts," she said. "Probably there is no other issue which affects our families so directly and so personally."
Lynch also was meeting with Alaska Native youth.
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