Mille Lacs Ojibwe fighting violent offenders with banishment

Native Mob gang terrorizing Minnesota reservation

"Has it stopped crime completely? No," says Reed. "Has it reduced it? Maybe. But they still come back and commit crimes."

 

MARLENE POUKKA'S house is still scarred by the bullet lodged just centimeters over the second-story window of her son's bedroom.

Right: Cody St. John still picks gravel out of the scars inflicted on a subzero night in 2006
courtesy of Jeff Anderson & Associates
Right: Cody St. John still picks gravel out of the scars inflicted on a subzero night in 2006
A civilian search party found William Nickaboine's remains hidden behind the wastewater plant last summer
Mille Lacs Band
A civilian search party found William Nickaboine's remains hidden behind the wastewater plant last summer

Poukka was asleep when it happened last winter. She awoke to the unmistakable sound of gunfire in her front yard. Before she could even get up to investigate, her son barged into her room.

"Mom!" he screamed. "Somebody just shot at the house!"

She found out the next morning that someone living at her next-door neighbor's house owed money to a drug dealer. When the money didn't come on time, the dealer wanted to send a message. Poukka's house had just been collateral damage.

"We have a pretty good idea who it is," she says, divulging only that the shooters were gang members. "I really don't want to say anything."

Today, two pit bulls stand sentry in her yard for security. Though she's lived there for eight years, she feels uncomfortable walking beyond her own driveway.

"I don't feel safe at all," she says.

Poukka's block doesn't have streetlights, and she's witnessed the gangs that roam her neighborhood under the cover of darkness.

"I've seen groups of teenagers walking down the road with clubs," she says. "I mean, what are they doing outside at that time in the morning?"

More than her own safety, she worries about her seven-year-old grandson, Jamie, whom she's helping to raise. Poukka's endured the fear for only a few years, but Jamie has never known any other life.

"He's just a little one," Poukka says. "When kids grow up with violence and they see it, they tend to do the same thing."

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