Disputed leaders vow to fight for control of small Alaska tribe

Flooding hit the village of Newtok once again in 2005. Photo by Stanley Tom via Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development

A leadership dispute within the Alaska Native village of Newtok does not appear to be settled despite a ruling from the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

Tribal members elected a new council in October 2012 but the old leaders refused to give up. After soliciting information from both groups, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognized the new leadership as the legitimate governing body.

The old council wasn't happy and asked the IBIA to review the matter. In a decision dated August 6, the IBIA sided with the agency, drawing praise from the new council.

“I feel relieved,” administrator Tom John told the Associated Press. “We got a major task to accomplish.”

The old council isn't giving up, though. Andy Patrick, who served as president of the ousted group, is calling for further appeals.

“It’s not even close to over yet,” Patrick told the AP. “We are going to the highest court, even to the top of the White House.”

The dispute has prevented the tribe from receiving an estimated $6.5 million in state funds. The money is supposed to help the village relocate from its current site along the Ninglick River, where residents face constant threats of flooding.

About 215 people live in the village, according to Calista Corporation.

Get the Story:
Panel sides with new group in Alaska tribal power dispute (AP 8/8)
Appeals panel sides with new Newtok council, easing village move (Alaska Dispatch News 8/7)

Interior Board of Indian Appeals Decision:
Newtok Traditional Council v. Acting Alaska Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs (August 6, 2015)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Alaska Native Villages: Most Are Affected by Flooding and Erosion, but Few Qualify for Federal Assistance. GAO-04-142 | Highlights

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