Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Sarah Palin v Alaska Natives

Sarah Palin gave her wish list to Kim Elton to take to Washington. It was all about oil, as usual, with a bit of responsible mining thrown in. But as Director of Alaska Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mr Elton has a much wider remit, involving the status of Alaska Tribes as well as the development of natural resources. We know that Native Alaskans are never on the Governor's wish list, unless it's about dispersing the villagers and killing their culture and way of life.

Alaska tribal sovereignty is a very important issue. Alaska tribes are federally recognized, have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, and possess the privileges, powers and responsibilities of any other federally recognized tribe.

Alaska Tribes do differ in some respects from those in the lower 48. Perhaps most significantly, most Alaska tribes are essentially landless, as ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) placed control of traditional Native lands in the hands of corporations. Thus Alaska tribal jurisdiction generally extends only to membership and not to a reservation or other "Indian country." But in all other essential respects—including their inherent sovereignty and powers of self-government—Alaska Tribes are the same as all others. The Bush Administration, taking its cue from the State and its congressional delegation, did not treat Alaska Tribes as "real" Tribes.

Victoria Briggs of Ugashik and Ann Strongheart of Nunam Iqua have outlined a long term plan containing several proposals for rural Alaska in the light of the recent energy crisis in the Yukon Delta. Some of the issues raised in their plan show that tribal recognition remains a very grey area, along with the corporations accountability to the tribes and their communities.

Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Sarah Palin does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition. A number of lawsuits reflect her stance regarding this issue.

The Office of Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs published an extensive document, American Indian & Alaska Native Tribal Government Policy, in October 2000.

The guidelines for interactions of Federal and State departments with tribal governments are very clearly stated in this policy document. A tactical move to ensure tribal marginalization during the Bush years has been the government's attempt to mediate its relationship with Alaska Natives through the thirteen powerful regional corporations, thereby bypassing Alaska tribal governments.

The Tribal Council requests that any legislative or policy initiatives the new Administration undertakes that impact Alaska Tribes require the involvement of Tribes—the sovereign governments representing Alaska Natives—not just corporations.

That's where Kim Elton comes in. He can reverse the tactics of the Bush Administration thus restoring the spirit of the policy document regarding the status of tribal governments.

Sarah Palin wouldn't like that at all. It doesn't fit in with her agenda of cultural genocide.

Victoria Briggs' and Ann Strongheart's proposals
Tribal council document
Alaska Native Tribal Government Policy document
The above link doesn't seem to work anymore. Here's another link, from the Dept of Energy
Court case 1 Court case 2

All posts about Native Alaska on this blog.
US Department of the Interior


regina said...

Somebody left a comment on the digg submission of this post. It had the following link:

In the comments section, this jumped at me:

First Americans matter to Obama. He strongly favors tribal sovereignty.

Aleut Granddaughter said...

Wow - how does this blogger from France manage to state very clearly about issues that even many Alaskans don't have a handle on. I am a rural Alaska friend, mostly white w/ some Aleut thrown in for good measure, and I am struggling to understand all the complex issues. I have touched on the sovereignty questions but have barely scratched the surface. So MANY things to try to understand and put into context for rural Alaskans. Thank you for a great insight! It doesn't hurt that my Senator (ex-Senator) Elton is an OUTSTANDING man and statesman who will do a great job for Alaska - ALL of Alaska.

regina said...

Dear Aleut Granddaughter,

Yes, these issues are complex. It takes a lot of patience to go through looong documents, but it pays off when the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together and I'm able to write something that makes some sense. (Ihope!)

What I have on my side is time to dedicate to all this reading. I'm retired, the weather is bad, hey, what a good opportunity to do a bit of digging!

Thanks for your kind comment, it makes it all worthwhile.

crystalwolf aka caligrl said...

Another Outstanding article! I hope you are commenting on Ann S blog too.
You have a way of putting things in perfect perspective.
And I love your picture, beautiful!

Anonymous said...

ANSCA is the reason why it is very complex, to deal with sovereignty.

We need state officials who understand the complex issues. My guess is , that is wy over Sarahs head.

Due to how things are set up, it becomes even more diffucult for the natives to come together. It would be nice to get speakers who are knowledgeable about how to stop it like Q’orianka Kilcher,

teal said...

ReRe: love the writing! Great job explaining things.
Go ahead and write that book! Dosen't matter where you are located

LisanTX said...

Another great post, Regina. Your blog does a wonderful job of taking complex topics and making them understandable. Thank you!

(One little bitty tip--In the US, the "style" of a lawsuit uses a "v." (instead of an "x") between the names of the opposing parties, such as Smith v. Jones. The "v." is an abbreviation of "versus." I'm an attorney and couldn't stop myself from saying that.)

Please keep up the good work. I admire your posts!

mpb said...

I've always been glad I wasn't a tribal law specialist. There are other quirks in the system but the biggest quirks/hassles are the confusions between the meanings of the word "tribal".

There is one reservation in Alaska, Metlakatla. Arctic Village/Venetie have a unique structure but I have forgotten the details.

I wish someone would track down what "traditional native council" means in Alaska-- I think there may be rights as a traditional council (c.f., Alaska Mental Health Trust lands) that are vastly more enabling of local sovereignty than any federal designation. Also under this, the state of Alaska may have a trust responsibility as much as the feds.

Friends of mine in New Mexico tribal councils, however, sometimes say that federal recognition-- which comes with trust responsibility-- is a major hindrance to sovereignty and autonomy with more negatives than positives.

Now my head hurts.

regina said...


Thanks for the v thingie. I amended the posts.

It's not the British way, I think it goes way back to my Brazilian roots. English is my second language and I have never learned it properly.

That's why I drop these occasional clangers... LOL

Lee323 said...

Your blogs are all well-researched and intelligent. You're doing an amazing job! Thanks!