While U.S. Attorney General William Barr toured Alaska’s rural communities learning firsthand their public safety plights, one Southeast Alaska tribal leader called Barr’s visit, “genuine and authentic.”

Richard Peterson, President of the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, sat two seats to Barr’s right during the attorney general’s recent meeting in Anchorage, his first stop during the four-day tour.

Now back in his Juneau office, Peterson said he appreciated how Barr acknowledged an obligation to citizens in all 50 states.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Peterson said. “I found him to be really genuine and authentic in talking with us.”

Peterson said Barr traveling throughout the state shows the urgency rural communities face with public safety.

“I think in D.C., they're hearing that pressure. There's some serious justice issues in Alaska right now,” he said. “Public safety in rural Alaska is pretty, tragically at a climax, I think. We’re really in trouble.”

Peterson serves as president for a Southeast tribal government that it says represents more than 30,000 Tlingit and Haida residents worldwide.

“One of the things we tried to illustrate for the U.S. attorney general — this is his first time to Alaska at least in this capacity — is to respond to an emergency in the village can be like going from New York to Florida," Peterson said. 

He said he wants Barr and others to see how tribes can play a key, long-term role in public safety. He said Barr promised to return to Alaska, and Peterson says he would like the attorney general to visit the Tlingit & Haida court system in Juneau.

“I think given the resources for us to help build infrastructure, the tribes are the answer to the problem. I don’t think we are the problem,” he said. “I think we are the solution."


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