Disputed leaders of small Alaska tribe refuse to vacate building

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

A long-running leadership dispute within the Alaska Native village of Newtok remains unresolved despite intervention by a federal judge and the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

In August, the IBIA upheld a decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to recognize a new tribal council. But the old leaders have refused to leave the tribal building.

In November, a federal judge sided with the new council and ordered the old leaders to stop representing themselves as legitimate. But the old faction hasn't recognized the decision and didn't respond to any filings in court.

The new leaders, who were elected in October 2012 but have yet to take office, are now asking the judge to allow the Alaska state troopers to enforce the decision. The old faction, though, isn't worried.

“We are waiting for the troopers,” Andy Patrick, who was the president of the old faction, told the Associated Press. “Let them come."

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:
Ex-leaders not budging after losing Alaska tribal dispute (AP 12/9)
Newtok power struggle heats up as new leaders try to evict old ones (AP 12/4)
A migratory house for villages on the move (The Delta Discovery 12/2)

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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