It’s been almost a year since Carmacks Chief Eddie Skookum beat his girlfriend bloody and unconscious in a Haines hotel room.
And the Alaskan fishing community is still reeling.
“This is the most violent incident we’ve seen in years,” said Haines resident and former law enforcement officer Tim Ackerman.
“It’s horrifying and shocking to the whole community because this is a pretty peaceful place.”
In July, Skookum’s 21-year-old girlfriend was found unconscious in a Haines hotel parking lot with “her whole faced smashed off to one side,” he said.
“He used his boots to kick her in the face and used a lamp to strike her too.
“The room was horrible, there was blood everywhere.”
After spending several weeks in a Juneau jail, the long-serving chief accepted a plea bargain that saw several charges, including the felony of assault, reduced to a misdemeanour of reckless endangerment in court.
Prosecutors accepted the deal after Skookum’s young girlfriend refused to take the stand.
Skookum was sentenced to a 30-day treatment program for alcohol abuse.
In November, Carmacks elders decided keep Skookum as chief.
That would have never happened in the Alaskan Native Brotherhood. Ackerman is a member.
“And we don’t allow people with a record to be part of our organization,” he said.
“Because we act as role models and lead the way.”
In the Yukon, Skookum is still chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.
“After such a thing, to be in the position he’s in not only makes him look bad, but it’s a reflection of the whole community,” said Ackerman.
It comes down to educating the voters, he said.
“Ask them what they expect from their leader.”
Ackerman has spent time in the Yukon working with the Sundog carvers, now known as the Northern Cultural Expressions Society.
During Sundog’s canoe camp on Lake LaBerge, he acted as a youth councillor and carver.
And Ackerman came back this winter to host a drum workshop with the society.
“I got pretty involved with everyone up there and I’m still friends with everyone,” he said.
Ackerman finds it hard to believe Skookum held his post as chief after the assault.
“Men are built to be hunters and protectors,” he said.
“To have Skookum act and react like that is one of the worst things a man can do – I don’t care what the female does – he should not resort to talking with a closed fist.”
People in Haines were “horrified,” he added.
“It’s good thing (Skookum) didn’t continue doing what he was doing to her, or he would have killed her.
“He should never have allowed himself to get into a fit of uncontrollable rage and consume alcohol.
“Here you have a man who is chief, and is supposed to represent the whole nation he is chief of – it reflects on everyone who belongs to that tribe.”
During his 18 years in law enforcement, Ackerman never saw a domestic dispute get this ugly.
“Sometimes we got people screaming or making a ruckus,” he said.
“But nothing this graphic – it was pretty shocking.”
Ackerman realizes he’s not from the Yukon and “doesn’t want to shoot any arrows.”
But he also knows how shaken his community still is after this violence.
“Skookum needs to man up and step aside,” he said.
Contact Genesee Keevil at firstname.lastname@example.org