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2/24/15 - Tlingit and Haida Indian tribes approve same-sex marriages in tribal courts

Goal of tribal same-sex policy is inclusion of all tribal members

Southeast Alaska’s largest tribal organization has authorized its courts to perform same-sex marriages. The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska announced its new policy yesterday [Feb. 23]. The policy defines legal marriage to be with another person regardless of gender. President Richard says the council is exercising its governing authority to include all tribal members. 
“It’s something we can do to extend our sovereignty for all of our tribal citizens,” said Peterson. “It’s not just about the same-sex marriage and helping just one segment of our tribal citizens, but all of our tribal citizenry.”

Peterson says as far as he knows Central Council courts have not conducted marriages in the past. He wants the new policy to encourage same- and opposite-sex marriages. At least one party in a couple will have to be a tribal member. The marriage directive also includes divorces. 

The organization “Freedom to Marry,” based in New York City, lists tribes in the Pacific Northwest, upper Midwest and Oklahoma that OK’d same-sex marriages during the past half-dozen years. President Evan Wolfson said he’s sure there are more.  

“Members of the tribes know what it’s like to experience discrimination.," said Wolfson. "They know what it’s like to be shoved outside, to be looked down on. And I think what tribal authorities are saying is that, out of that history, we know it’s important that we not commit the same kinds of discrimination, that we not isolate people, is that we not harm them.” 

Central Council enrollment includes nearly 30,000 Tlingit and Haida Indians.

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The Federal Subsistence Board is asking for public comment on a definition that determines which communities can take part in subsistence activities

As KNOM reports, the Federal Subsistence Board is taking public comments on the definition of rural, an issue its grappled with for years. The distinction is important because under Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Act, or ANILCA, rural designation protects a community’s right to take part in subsistence activities. In the past, the board weighed population size against factors like industrial development and infrastructure, including road access.

Now, rather than drawing a picture of what it means to be rural, the Federal Subsistence Board wants to define what it means to be non-rural. The proposal would simplify the process at the local level. The burden of proof would not be on the community to prove it’s rural. Rather it would be on someone else to prove it’s non-rural. The Federal Subsistence Board is collecting public comments on the proposed change through April 1.

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Marijuana use now legal in Alaska

Smoking, growing and possessing marijuana becomes legal in Alaska today tomorrow, thanks to a voter initiative aimed at clearing away 40 years of conflicting laws and court rulings. Some Alaska Native leaders worry that legalization will bring new temptations to communities already confronting high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and suicide.

Gov. Bill Walker has introduced a bill that would create a 5-member board to draft marijuana industry regulations and share staff and resources with the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

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Thousands of workers get a one-dollar wage increase today

Alaska's minimum wage rises to $8.75 an hour today, giving a pay increase to thousands of workers. Voters in November overwhelmingly approved raising the minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour.