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Opinion: Tribal system in Alaska not working

"By 1867, the recently formed United States had racked up a few generations of experience with indigenous cultures from the Atlantic to the Pacific and had formulated the presumption that all Native people with whom they came in contact were similar if not actually identical.

As a result, the Tlingit were labeled a tribe despite a clan-based exogamous social structure. This arbitrary categorization persisted throughout all laws affecting the Tlingit: the Organic Act, Indian Reorganization Act, Dawes Act, Statehood Act, Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Indian Claims Commission, Tlingit Haida Act, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Indian Child Welfare Act, Self-Determination and Housing Acts - dozens of laws dealing directly with Indians or indirectly with services intended to benefit tribal members whose identity is defined more prominently by their corporation than by their clan.

One of the most debilitating effects of this bureaucratic complexity is the obligation to conform to federally imposed definitions, guidelines, and codes that have created tribes in the image of their civil-service maker. Some 229 federally recognized tribes exist in Alaska. All have presidents and treasurers. All pass resolutions condemning social ills and supporting social programs. For all, seeking funding is a principal aim."

Get the Story:
Ernestine Hayes: There's plenty of government, but not much tribe (The Juneau Empire 10/17)

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