The Native Village of Kiana has banished a man from the village because he’s suspected of bringing crystal meth into the community.
A tribal council convened on Monday, Sep. 16 to issue a civil exclusion order against 37-year-old Thomas Nay. The action is one of several tools that tribal courts have to keep their communities safe.
Kiana Tribe Director Delores Barr says the tribe had gotten complaints that Nay had brought crystal meth into the community. A trooper dispatch says Nay had been picked up on Sep. 6 in Kiana for an unrelated warrant for failing to appear at a pre-trial hearing.
He was flown to Kotzebue.
“The next day, we got more word that he had been released and he was on a flight back to Kiana,” Barr said. “And the community took it upon themselves to meet the flight and ask him to leave because they did not want drugs here in the community.”
Nay complied, returning to Kotzebue. When reached by phone, he said the accusation is untrue, claiming he was a victim of gossip.
“I think that stirred up the rumors a lot, because I had been picked up on a warrant from Anchorage on a totally different charge,” Nay said. “And then when they released me, people thought that I had been picked up for dope charges and then been released.”
Barr in Kiana says Alaska State Troopers are currently investigating Nay for drug-related activity.
Thomas Nay’s brother, trooper Nasruk Nay of Kotzebue, is in charge of drug crimes for the Northwest Arctic. Thomas says Nasruk was the one who arrested him in Kiana. Nasruk says he cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
Thomas says that he didn’t take the arrest from his brother personally.
“No, I don’t find it odd,” Thomas Nay said. “That’s his job and he’s pretty good at his job.”
The tribal council in Kiana held a hearing to decide Thomas’s future in the village. Barr says Thomas was able to call into the hearing to make his case. She says he denied the accusation. Barr said the council also heard from witnesses in the community.
“Once the council was done hearing the facts from the witnesses, they considered the exclusion order, prohibiting this individual to come into town for a period of five years,” Barr said.
Barr says the banishment time could possibly be reduced if troopers inform Kiana that Thomas Nay isn’t a drug threat to the community, or he completes a drug rehabilitation program.
Issuing a civil exclusion order is one of the ways that local tribes can exert judicial authority in their communities. Two years ago, the community of Akiak banished 43-year-old Jacques Cooper for allegedly bootlegging and selling marijuana in the community.
But Barr says Kiana hasn’t issued a banishment in over two decades. She says despite her appreciation for the order, it’s still a difficult action to take.
“I believe it is a viable method,” Barr said. “However, it isn’t easy on anyone, especially for the people are associated with those individuals, because our communities are so small. Everybody knows everyone and it’s not an easy thing to do.”
Kiana is about 57 miles east of Kotzebue. Its current population is 391.
Barr says, though difficult, the council was happy with the end result.
“Our council members were very concerned, hearing what was happening and the amount of illegal drugs that were present, and the effects it was having on our community members — with one person having been sent out to the hospital,” Barr said. “So, they were relieved that they were able to take action and do something about it.”
Court records show that Thomas Nay is scheduled for arraignment on charges of robbery and violating a condition of release on Sep. 26 in Anchorage. In an interview, he said he has no plans to return to Kiana, even if they allow him back.