Opinion | Trust

Gordon Jackson: Land-into-trust brings hope for Alaska tribes

Gordon Jackson. Photo from Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

Gordon Jackson, a former president of the Kake Tribal Corporation, explains why Alaska tribes should be able to follow the land-into-trust process:
The upside is that by creating small footprints of Indian Country, the tribes will become eligible for federal funds to support the basic government services they petition the state in vain to provide.

Indian Country in Alaska has been around for a very long time. Metlakatla, established in 1891, remains a self-governing, well-run reservation, the only active reservation within the state. Elsewhere in Southeast Alaska, Native trust lands include allotments owned by individuals, as well as lands held by Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) corporations in Kake, Klawock, Hydaburg and Angoon. In the 1930s and 1940s these early tribal organizations owned canneries, fish traps and fleets of fishing boats.

Alaska statehood resulted in the elimination of fish traps, the imposition of new regulations of fisheries and land selections — all of this without consultation with Alaska Natives, as clearly anticipated in Section 4 (the “disclaimer clause”) of the Alaska Statehood Act. The new state’s indifference to Alaska Native rights led to the formation of the Alaska Federation of Natives and the subsequent Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The state’s indifference to Alaska Natives continues, especially in its abrogation of basic services to Alaska Native villages, where the cost of electrical power for businesses is five to six times that of urban areas, all of which are the beneficiaries of generous state and federal subsidies for hydroelectric projects. Traditional village industries like fish processing have disappeared, village fishing fleets are gone due to state-limited entry fishing policies, and subsistence activities are subject to punitive state regulations.

Get the Story:
Gordon Cooper: 'Indian Country' would succeed where state failed (The Juneau Empire 8/16)

Relevant Documents:
Dear Tribal Leader Letter from Kevin Washburn (April 30, 2014)

District Court Decisions:
Akiachak Native Community v. Jewell (September 30, 2013)
Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar (March 31, 2013)

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (December 23, 2014)

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