Alaska Federation of Natives hosts welcome event for Obama

YouTube: President Obama Previews His Upcoming Trip to Alaska

President Barack Obama is going to Alaska at the end of the month to meet with the state's first inhabitants and discuss climate change.

Obama stopped at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage in February as he made his way to Asia but he did not spend much time elsewhere. So the visit will be his first extended trip to the 49th state.

"I'm going because Alaskans are on the front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change," Obama said on video preview.

Obama will be welcomed to Anchorage by the Alaska Federation of Natives. The organization, the largest of its kind in the state, is hosting a celebration for the president on August 31, The Alaska Dispatch News reported.

An aerial view of Kivalina, a Native village in Alaska that needs to be relocated due to rising sea levels. Photo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Wikipedia

That same day, Obama is due to speak at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience. The State Department event is not open to the public.

Obama is also expected to visit a rural or Native community. Advance teams from the White House have been checking out possible locations, according to news reports.

"I'll meet with Americans who are dealing with climate change every day and I'll talk with with other nations on how we can tackle this challenge together," Obama said on the video.

Although the primary focus of the trip will be climate change, it comes as Alaska faces a crucial deadline. The state is considering how to proceed in a lawsuit that will determine whether tribes can follow the land-into-trust process.

A view of the Akiachak Native Community, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that prompted the Obama administration to include Alaska tribes in the land-into-trust process. Photo from Calista Corporation

The Bureau of Indian Affairs finalized a land-into-trust rule for Alaska after losing a decision in Akiachak Native Community v. Department of Interior. Rather than appeal, the Obama administration consulted tribes and came up with the historic regulation.

The rule, however, is on hold as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals awaits a brief from Gov. Bill Walker (I). The deadline is Monday, August 24.

The Obama administration has supported parity for Alaska Natives on land-into-trust and other matters. Last December, Vice President Joe Biden called on Congress to treat Alaska tribes the same as those in the lower 48 by recognizing their authority over non-Indian domestic violence offenders.

"We need to give the nations of Alaska the same authority," Biden said to applause at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 3, 2014. Photo from VP Biden / Twitter

Less than two weeks later, Congress enacted S.1474, the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act. The law brings Alaska tribes into the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.

With trust land, advocates believe tribes will be able to better protect their women, who suffer from the highest rates of domestic violence in the state and in the nation.

"Trust land in Alaska can open up new streams of funding and training for rural public safety, law enforcement, victim services, justice and rehabilitation," law professor Sarah Deer, who won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant for her efforts to prevent violence against Native women, wrote for The Alaska Dispatch News in an opinion co-authored by David Voluck, a tribal court judge.

Native Americans represent 14.7 percent of the population in Alaska, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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