Rachel Mike, who won a settlement in a case involving Father Poole, at her confirmation in the summer of 1975. Behind her is Father George Endal, accused of raping or molesting several boys and allegedly walking in on another priest performing oral sex on a 6-year-old boy and doing nothing to stop it.
One spring afternoon in 1977, 15-year-old Rachel Mike tried to kill herself for the third time. An Alaska Native, Rachel was living in a tiny town called Stebbins on a remote island called St. Michael. She lived in a house with three bedrooms and nine siblings. Rachel was a drinker, depressed, and starving. “When my parents were drinking, we didn’t eat right,” she says. “I just wanted to get away from the drinking.”
Rachel walked to the bathroom to fetch the family rifle, propped in the bathtub with the dirty laundry (the house didn’t have running water). To make sure the gun worked, Rachel loaded a shell and blew a hole in her bedroom wall. Her father, passed out on his bed, didn’t hear the shot. Rachel walked behind their small house. Her arms were too short to put the rifle to her head, so she shot herself in her right leg instead.
Rachel was found screaming in a pool of blood by her Auntie Emily and flown 229 miles to a hospital in Nome. The doctor asked if she wanted to see a priest. She said yes. In walked Father James Poole-a popular priest, radio personality on KNOM, and, according to allegations in at least five lawsuits, serial child rapist. Father Poole has never been convicted of a crime, but the Jesuits have settled numerous sex-abuse claims against him since 2005, in excess of $5 million, according to an attorney involved in four of those five lawsuits. Exact figures aren’t available because some of the settlements involve confidentiality agreements. The Jesuits have never let a single case against Father Poole go to trial.
In a 2005 deposition, Rachel testified that she had been molested by Father Poole in 1975, while in Nome for her second suicide attempt, an attempted overdose of alcohol and pills. He’d come sit by her bed, put his hand under the hospital blanket, and fondle her, she said.
She traveled between Stebbins and Nome several times in the late 1970s, spending time in hospitals and receiving homes. By 1977, Rachel testified, Poole had given her gonorrhea, and by 1978 she was pregnant with his child. In an interview with The Stranger, she said Poole encouraged her to get an abortion and tell the doctors she had been raped by her father. She followed his advice. “He brainwashed me,” she said. “He messed up my head, man.”
Rachel Mike’s father died in 2004. A year later, she heard Elsie Boudreau, another survivor of Poole’s abuse, being interviewed on the radio. Listening to Boudreau, Rachel was moved to finally tell the truth.