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KNBA News - Alaska Dept. of Law opposes tribes over land into trust

Governor Bill Walker’s administration opposes tribes taking “land into trust.”

Monday the Alaska Department of Law filed a brief appealing court rulings in the Akiachak vs Jewell, Secretary of the Department of Interior lawsuit, which was first filed in 2006 by five Alaska tribes and an individual.

Trust status transfers tribal lands to federal ownership and protects the land from taxation and from being taken or sold. It gives tribes greater local jurisdiction, which they say is needed for law enforcement and self determination. Trust lands include reservations, and are common throughout the lower 48. A DC District Court ruled in 2013 that federal regulations barring Alaska tribes from filing for trust status were arbitrary and capricious and violated the Indian Reorganization act of 1934.

The state of Alaska had intervened in the lawsuit in 2008, saying regulatory changes would diminish the state’s sovereignty. The state contends the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 precludes the creation of new trust lands.

In a prepared statement issued yesterday, Attorney General Craig Richards said the court’s ruling fundamentally changes a law that’s been in place for more than 30 years, a change of such magnitude, he said, it requires “thorough and deliberative dialogue that can’t occur in just a matter of months.”

The court ruled in June 2014 changes to the rules could move forward, but the Department of Interior could not consider specific applications for trust status until the state’s appeal is resolved.


Inuit leaders seek input into international discussions on the Arctic

By Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Alaska and the future of Arctic policy are seeing increased international attention as the US holds the chairmanship for the Arctic Council and foreign ministers prepare to meet in Anchorage later this month—joined by President Obama.

International leaders were in Bethel last week when the Inuit Circumpolar Council executive council met to plan their next few years of work.  Jim Stotts of Barrow is President of ICC-Alaska.  He said the indigenous perspective needs to be heard at the high-level meetings.

“But I don’t think anything can really happen in the Arctic without the involvement of the Inuit,  the people who are living particularly coast, on the Arctic coast of North America,” said Stotts. “We’re the ones who have lived here the longest, who know the most about it. If we’re not included in discussions about the Arctic, they’re incomplete discussion as far as I’m concerned.”

The ICC represents indigenous people from Arctic nations. They consult with the United Nations and are a permanent participant in the Arctic Council.

The ICC’s goals aim well beyond the president’s visit, with summits on economic development, wildlife management, and education planned for the next few years. Officials say they want to strengthen the ICC’s role within the international sphere.

ICC Vice Chair Hjalmar Dahl is ICC president for Greenland. He emphasized that indigenous leaders need to reach out to all generations across the north and connect them with those that have common goals and interests.

“We are not isolated,” said Dahl. “We are part of the global community. It’s important for us also to get the youth to gain the knowledge of our work in that area. And that the youth be interested also.”

The executive council also took a trip to the nearby village of Oscarville to see a pilot project for coordinated and collaborative community development.