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FATE OF 2 TEENS IN THE HANDS OF TRIBAL COURT

There were no lawyers, no oaths, no objections. The 12 judges drank the juice of a thorny plant, wore deerskin tunics and had the courtroom cleansed of evil spirits.

This was justice, Tlingit style.Two Klawock teenagers who robbed and severely beat a pizza deliveryman in Everett, Wash., a year ago stood before the Kuye'di Kuiu Kwaan Tribal Court on Thursday.

The court could decide Friday to banish Adrian Guthrie and Simon Roberts, both 17, to separate, uninhabited islands as punishment. They would live off the land, purify themselves and reflect on the shame they brought to their people.

Last month, a Washington state judge postponed sentencing the pair to see if Tlingit (prnounced CLINK-ut) justice would work better than prison.

The hearing is being held in a faded, wooden, single-story hall used primarily for twice-weekly bingo games.

Before the two youths were brought in through the "entrance of shame," the Tlingits took 45 minutes to cleanse the hall of evil spirits.

Klawock elder Theodore Roberts, a frail man with a baseball cap proclaiming him a "Super Tlingit," flailed vigorously at the walls with a branch of devil's club, a thorny plant common in the region.

"Ha KEEN ah! Ha KEEN ah!" he shouted in Tlingit, exhorting the spirits to depart.

A procession of women walked slowly toward the hall's entrance, led by a woman beating slowly on a drum.

Then the judges entered, dressed in Tlingit regalia. Byron Skinna Sr. wore a large, round hat made of wood, which included a carving and salmon designs with abalone inlays. Most judges wore red and black ceremonial blankets studded with dozens of white buttons.

The youths testified they had gotten drunk on rum at a party and that they got the idea from another boy who bragged that he had mugged pizza deliverymen.