Alaska Native groups push back against racist rant outside Fairbanks grocery store

a man
A passerby (left) encourages a man to leave after he addressed two Alaska Native shoppers using racist language outside a Fairbanks Fred Meyer store on June 26, 2024. (Screen capture)

Editor’s note: This story includes audio containing racist language and profanities.

An encounter outside a Fairbanks grocery store in which a man launched a racist diatribe against Alaska Native shoppers is drawing condemnation from area Native groups, as well as store management.

The Fairbanks Native Association and the Tanana Chiefs Conference issued a joint statement about the incident that occurred last week near the entrance to the West Fairbanks Fred Meyer store. A video circulating on social media shows a non-Native man berating two people, who the joint statement says are from a village in the TCC region.

In the video, shot on June 26, the man is heard harassing the shoppers and using racist epithets, telling them they “are what is wrong with this country,” and that they shouldn’t be allowed to shop.

“Yeah, you —ing Natives shouldn’t even be allowed to —ing shop. Go back out to the woods and do your —ing bull—-,” the man says in the video.

In the joint statement, both FNA Executive Director Melissa Charlie and TCC Chief and Chair Brian Ridley denounce such behavior. They also say they are requesting appropriate follow-up.

“The harassment of Alaska Natives who are simply shopping for groceries and other items at one of the only grocery stores in Fairbanks is inexcusable,” Charlie and Ridley said in the statement.

The West Fairbanks Fred Meyer is the closest grocery to the Fairbanks airport.

A 2018 study by the research group Information Insights estimates Alaska Native organizations pump $1 billion into the Fairbanks regional economy every year. Many village residents come to Fairbanks for medical appointments and shopping trips, often spending hundreds of dollars on groceries that are cheaper to repack and fly back home as freight or baggage than to purchase the same goods at their village store, if they can find them there.

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A sign about threatening behavior in the window of a Safeway store, across the street from the West Fairbanks Fred Meyer where the incident occurred, has been up since the beginning of the pandemic. (Robyne/KUAC)

FNA represents some 10,000 Alaska Natives and American Indians in the Fairbanks area. TCC represents 20,000 Indigenous people across the broader Interior. In the statement, the organizations ask Fred Meyer to ban the man in the video from the store, and to ensure security prevents such incidents from happening again.

On Tuesday, Fred Meyer parent company Kroger released a statement about the incident, saying staff “are disheartened by the offensive actions recorded in this video.”

“At Fred Meyer, our core values are rooted in Safety, Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion,” Kroger said in the statement. “We stand firmly against any acts of hate and are dedicated to providing a safe and welcome shopping experience for all of our customers. As such we have security protocols in place to deescalate such incidents, and we work in close partnership with local law enforcement to address any safety concerns.”

The statement says the store is “in the process of identifying the individual involved and will issue a no-trespass order, as his actions do not represent the values we uphold in our shared community.”

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