Will God bless Alaska? I doubt it. At least not until Alaskans, especially those who believe the Bible is God’s Word, begin making justice a top priority when voting for our leaders.

Justice is one of the most prevalent biblical themes. Before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses instructed the people to “follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Prophet after prophet warned the Israelites to change their ways and put justice first. The consequences of injustice were destruction for the nation.

In Isaiah, God says “I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.”

The Israelites ignored these warnings, and the rest is history. The northern kingdom of Israel fell first followed by the southern kingdom of Judah and its holy city of Jerusalem.

Here in our own land, Alaska Natives are especially vulnerable to injustice, particularly those who reside off the road system. Alaska Natives represent 17% of the general population but 40% of the prison population…

In modern times, our state government persecutes innocent people and shows no interest in correcting its mistakes. Thomas Jack Jr., an innocent man never tried by a jury of his peers and denied a fair trial, has been robbed of his freedom for the last 14 years.

AK Mom is an innocent woman, never tried by a jury of her peers, who has been robbed of her family for three years. The consequences have been devastating to her and her five children. She now has some of her kids back but desperately needs help repairing the damage the state has inflicted.

Thomas and AK Mom are devout Christians. The line they have walked is probably straighter than most of us. Their persecution at the hands of the state is the result of our failures as voters, not theirs.

Tragically, Thomas and AK Mom are not isolated cases. Many other Alaskans are victims of injustice by our state government. Several have read my articles and contacted me, desperate for help.

Our leaders and judges allow state employees to prey on the poor and the defenseless. Growing the number of wards of the state generates both money and jobs. With that comes increased power and tyranny. Grand juries, the historical guardians of the people, have been rendered powerless by a government that doesn’t want its corruption or mistakes investigated and reported on.

Alaska’s governmental bureaucracy is hungry for money and power because that’s what voters allow. In fact, the state resembles the Israel described in Isaiah whose “leaders are rebels, friends of thieves. They all love bribes and run after gifts. They give no justice to orphans, the widow’s complaint doesn’t’ catch their attention.”

Alaska Natives are especially vulnerable to this injustice, particularly those who reside off the road system. They represent 17% of the general population but 40% of the prison population and 65% of the children in foster care. They are easy targets for those who profit from injustice.

Edward K. Thomas, President Emeritus of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes spoke to this fact nearly 20 years ago, “there is no equal access to justice in Alaska…many Native people charged with breaking the law in a remote rural community have to be tried in urban courts outside of their communities.”

Fifty of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature will be up for election this fall – all seats in the House of Representative and half the seats in the Senate.

Thomas Jack Jr. from the remote community of Hoonah experienced this reality a few years later. Sam Hanlon, a Hoonah tribal leader called Thomas “honest and upright.” Bob Barton, his pastor in Hoonah, agrees. Hanlon, his wife Katherine, and Barton all stated the allegations against Thomas had no merit. Barton, a decorated military pilot who served our country for 25 years, said “I can’t imagine how he could be convicted in a fair trial by an impartial jury.”

Readers, please pause for a few moments and absorb Barton’s words. Then consider Lamentations 3:36, “if they twist justice in the courts – doesn’t the Lord see all these things?”

This kind of injustice prevails in Alaska because the leaders we vote for haven’t put justice first. We can change that this fall. We can choose to be blessed or we can continue down the path towards destruction. The outcome is up to us.

Fifty of the 60 seats in the Alaska Legislature will be up for election this fall – all seats in the House of Representative and half the seats in the Senate.

Protesters gather on Feb. 16 on the steps of Alaska’s Capitol Building in Juneau to rally in support of Thomas Jack, Jr.

In Southeast, every seats in the districts where Thomas’ family resides are up for election. To date, none of the current elected representatives have stood publicly to help bring justice to Thomas and his family. These politicians are Senators Bert Stedman and Jesse Kiehl, and Representatives Sarah Hannan, Andi Stori, and Rebecca Himschoot.

For years I have provided Stedman, Kiehl, Hannan and Stori with specific details on the injustice in Thomas’ case, but they’ve done nothing. On February 16 of this year, at least 15 citizens peacefully demonstrated on the steps of the Capitol Building to rally in support of Thomas. They held signs that read “Free TomTom Now” and “Justice for Alaska Natives.”

The organizer of the event was Thomas’ oldest sister Yvette DeBlois, who flew to Juneau from Washington D.C., where she lives. Afterwards, and with the permission of Capitol security, a few of the women demonstrators went inside and stopped by the offices of Kiehl, Hannan, Stori and Himschoot. The women respectfully requested that the legislators contact Yvette. She hasn’t heard from a single one.

A week later, House Bill 386 was introduced by Governor Dunleavy which seeks to broadly curb public demonstrations like Yvette’s, under the threat of civil and criminal penalties. Pitching it to the House Judiciary Committee was State Attorney General Treg Taylor whose Department of Law has been a leader in levying injustice on Alaska Natives and hijacking grand jury investigations into state corruption. Public testimony was unanimous against the bill, but the Committee quickly passed it with only Rep. Genevieve Mina voting against.

If our current elected officials won’t take an immediate public stand for justice for Thomas or AK Mom, then don’t vote for them.

Prayer is important, but simply praying for justice may not be enough. Perhaps God is waiting for actions to back up our words.

Consider the first Chapter of Isaiah where God is completely fed up with burnt and grain offerings, religious festivals, and ritual attendance at the synagogue. God’s instruction is simple and clear: “Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.”

God was calling for action.

If you want Alaska to be blessed, demand justice from your elected officials. Those readers who have influence with Governor Dunleavy or his staff, do your part. Pray for our leaders, but then also speak to them directly and hold them accountable.

If our current elected officials won’t take an immediate public stand for justice for Thomas or AK Mom, then don’t vote for them. Registrations for new candidates are open until June 1. The primaries are on August 20 and the general election on November 5. There’s time if we act now.

I asked Thomas for a couple paragraphs to relay to Alaska Watchman readers. From his prison cell, he wrote the following:

To my brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am Thomas Jack Jr., a Tlingit from Hoonah. I thank you for reading this cry for action and help. I am a Christian in the truest sense of the word. A Christian who has been wrongfully convicted under man’s flawed system of justice. I am 100% innocent of the heinous crimes that I was charged with and wrongfully convicted of.

I have endured 14 years of brutal incarceration that separates me from my mom, dad, sisters, my church family and my friends. I make my plea in the presence of the Holy Spirit, that these articles from brother David Ignell will be read without bias or presupposition, but in the Holy Truth that speaks to my absolute innocence that cries out for action and help.

Thomas signed off with Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

I asked Pete Schneeberger, a long-time resident of Hoonah to say a few words about Thomas for this article. He wrote these words:

“Thomas was a friend and teammate. Then he witnessed a baptism with me and a few weeks later he himself got baptized and showed the world his commitment to Jesus Christ. I totally believe in his moral integrity.”

Pete told me he speaks on behalf of many Hoonah residents.

The prophet Habakkuk complained “the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous so that justice is perverted.”  Thomas has been hemmed in by Alaska’s perversion of justice for 14 years.

To Governor Dunleavy and our current legislators who’ve heard the truth about Thomas and AK Mom and done nothing – how much longer will you dare to despise justice and distort all that is right?

For Alaskans who profess belief in the Word of God, what standard will we require of our leaders, and perhaps more importantly, ourselves?

The views expressed here are those of the author.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

OPINION: Alaska shouldn’t expect God’s blessing while persecuting the defenseless

David Ignell
David Ignell was born and raised in Juneau, where he currently resides. He holds a law degree from University of San Diego and formerly practiced as a licensed attorney in California. He has experience as a volunteer analyst for the California Innocence Project, and is currently a forensic journalist and author of a recent book on the Alaska Grand Jury.


  • Yvette Jack DeBlois says:

    Thank you David for another plea for help to the people of Alaska. It has become crystal clear to myself and family that our elected officials have no interest in correcting this horrible mistake by the Ak unjustice system. I ask ALL who read this contact your representative and ask them if they are satisfied with the statistics of the unequal incarceration of Alaska natives. Citizens in the lower 48 states are vocal about the injustice of other minority groups targeted by the legal system with loud voices and action to support for justice for all. The people of Alaska at this moment are in a position of power with an election this year. I believe if we speak as one and demand attention from our state leaders and native leadership we will see actual results and real movement toward justice for my brother Thomas and Ak mom. The result will be broader positive outcome for Natives state wide. Currently, AK. Natives live with the reality that we are one allegation from being put in prison for 40 years.
    Both our families have been put through hell at the brutal hands of the State of Alaska. Please help bring my brother back home to his family, friends and a community who believe in him.

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    This is a great article. It doesn’t give a lot of details on the charges. It would be nice to know what people are asked to go to bat for. I will speak to folks about this! Not dure if it will help, but I know it can’t hurt!

    • David Ignell says:

      Thank you Neil. You can find the underlying facts of Thomas’ wrongful conviction by clicking on the words in the article about being robbed of 14 years. (they appear in blue). It will take you to my earlier article on Jan. 22.

  • Robert Bird says:

    The entire judicial system is corrupt. David Haeg has done the lion’s share of the work in exposing this. But what about our drug abuse? And ABORTION? Legalized marijuana? LGBTQ running rampant? Once you pretend that unborn children are not fully human, then the sky is the limit. Men can be women and women can be men. Madness reigns. NO ONE is safe. Time has extrapolated the errors into a monstrosity of problems.

  • Cod says:

    Some things never change. Just like Rome, our nation state is falling. Not only do State officials do nothing to assist those in need, they actively promote everything that God held dear. Attacking Christians, encouraging lawbreakers, promoting promiscuous behaviors, denying the distinct differences God created in men and women, even to the point of besmirching the holy day of Easter Sunday with their underminings.
    We citizens can only continue to speak the truth and try to ‘out’ these tyrants that evil has placed before us. We WILL continue to bring the light to them and I hope many more of us will join together and remove those that are not worthy of their positions.
    God Bless

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Alaska is going to have to fall before the people wake up. I did not realize how out of touch I am with our Alaskan society. I cannot believe how apathetic so many are about our local politics. So many appear not to care. Well, when they are being hauled into an “education camp” or FEMA camp along with thousands of other Alaskans, they’ll wish they had been awake and gotten involved to stop this tyranny while there was still a chance to do so!

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      The churchman and pulpit dwellers are front line guilty here as the prophetic voices of the Bible have been ignored!