Mary Bishop: Beware of bringing land-into-trust process to Alaska

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

Tribes could start growing marijuana once the Bureau of Indian Affairs starts the land-into-trust process in Alaska, writer argues:
I envision a 120 acre, south-facing parcel of land in Fairbanks now owned by an ANCSA Regional Corporation (or it could be any other private entity) given or sold after a shareholder vote to perhaps the Nenana or Cantwell tribe for a tribal housing project.

The land would go into trust and the tribe would build homes for its tribal members, who then could ignore taxes and wood smoke, hunting, marijuana and other regulations, while on the property. Federal PILT (payment in lieu of tax program) would not match appropriately. Meanwhile, both Native (of other tribal membership) and non-Native neighbors pay taxes, obey regulations and would be treated differently on the basis of race or nation status. This is the rural/urban divide on steroids.

In addition, these tribal members living within Indian country would be voting residents of the borough. They would vote on our elected representatives and local bonding issues but don’t pay state or local taxes for them. The situation would be “representation without taxation.”

News articles indicate tribes nationally are looking at the financial benefits of getting into the marijuana business. On Indian country, tribal businesses cannot be regulated or taxed by the state or its municipalities. Marijuana is considered by some to be the next avenue to wealth for Indian country after casinos, which are currently not allowed in Alaska — but that, too, can change. The 3 M’s of this year’s legislative session were marijuana, medicaid and money.

Get the Story:
Mary Bishop: Beware Indian country pitfalls (The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 8/24)

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)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Jenny Bell-Jones: Embrace land-into-trust for Alaska tribes (8/18)
Gordon Jackson: Land-into-trust brings hope for Alaska tribes (8/17)
Richard Peterson: Alaska GOP ignores facts on land-into-trust (8/13)
Alaska governor faces deadline in major land-into-trust case (8/11)
Sarah Deer: Ending the cold war over land-into-trust in Alaska (8/3)
Liz Medicine Crow: Land-into-trust a safety issue in Alaska (07/24)
Opinion: Take a modern approach to land-into-trust in Alaska (5/4)
Opinion: Deadline approaches in Alaska land-into-trust dispute (04/27)
New governor of Alaska seeks delay in land-into-trust litigation (2/5)
Law Article: Major change for Alaska tribes with land-into-trust (12/24)
BIA finalizes rule to add Alaska tribes to land-into-trust process (12/19)
VAWA jurisdiction provision poses special issue for Alaska tribes (12/15)
Congress clears bill to extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/12)
Senate backs measure to extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/9)
Vice President Biden calls for inclusion of Alaska Natives in VAWA (12/4)
Opinion: Land-into-trust will help tribes in Alaska meet needs (07/17)
Mike Williams: Trust lands are vital to tribal self-determination (07/02)
BIA extends public comments on land-into-trust rule for Alaska (7/1)
Judge blocks land-into-trust decisions in Alaska pending appeal (6/27)
Opinion: Unanswered questions about land-into-trust in Alaska (6/26)
Geoff Strommer: Land-into-trust rule makes life safer in Alaska (05/20)
Tribal leaders laud inclusion of Alaska in land-into-trust process (05/09)
NCAI praises inclusion of Alaska tribes in land-into-trust process (5/2)
BIA accepts public comments on land-into-trust rule for Alaska (5/1)
BIA proposes rule to include Alaska in land-into-trust process (4/30)
Judge deletes Alaska exception in land-into-trust regulations (10/02)
Sen. Begich supports land-into-trust decision for Alaska tribes (4/23)
APRN: NARF attorney discusses decision in land-into-trust case (04/09)
Decision in Alaska case could reopen land-into-trust regulation (4/5)
NARF calls land-into-trust case 'victory' for all Alaska tribes (4/3)
Judge rules tribes in Alaska can follow land-into-trust process (4/1)
Rep. Young won't support Alaska tribes for land-into-trust fix (03/20)