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