August 11, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Many Alaska Native leaders and advocates have been vocal about their support for the Governor’s Administration to drop the state’s appeal of Akiachak Native Community v. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior 

ANCHORAGE: Earlier this week, the Alaska GOP published a commentary on their website that came out swinging against Alaska Native land into trust. The author of the piece is a former speechwriter for Gov. Parnell, who spearheaded the appeal to stop Alaska Natives from placing their land into trust.

Last year, the Department of the Interior, after a successful lawsuitbrought forward by the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of the Akiachak Native Community and other plaintiffs, ruled that Alaska tribes could petition the Federal Government to place their lands into trust.

According to an op-ed by Jenny Bell-Jones, an assistant professor in UAF’s department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, “the Akiachak decision removes discriminatory language from the Code of Federal Regulations and places Alaska tribes on an equal footing with their counterparts in the Lower 48.”

The professor continues to note that, “an appeal against this decision is essentially a request to allow discrimination to continue.”

Likewise, in an op-ed published by the President/CEO of First Alaskans Institute and a former U.S. attorney explain how the full power of the Violence Against Women Act cannot be fully utilized by Alaska tribes. The solution being to, “abandon the prior administration’s costly legal appeal of the U.S. Department of Interior’s regulation on how Alaska’s tribes can have land taken into trust.”

The AK GOP opponents of land into trust argue that it would equate to a federal land grab and, “create a new era of international relations across an unknown number of new jurisdictions exempt from state governance.”

However, Richard Peterson, President of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, pushes back on this concept. In a recent op-ed, he wrote, “It is now the State of Alaska’s turn to realize there is no Boogie Man in tribal trust land. It’s time to let go of this misplaced, uninformed, and oppositional fear.”

“It’s time to resolve this legal dispute so that Alaska Natives can exercise their right to request that their lands be placed into trust,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Governor Walker should drop this suit and not appeal the U.S. District Court decision."