Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Alaska Native Village Corporation Association
Posted: April 22, 2020
April 21, 2020
Over the weekend, leaders of various Alaska Native Corporations received a baffling questionnaire from a reporter with the Pro Publica and Anchorage Daily News and asking for justification on amounts that ANCs had allegedly applied for under the Senate’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Tribal Relief Fund.
No Alaska Native Corporation has made any such aid application. This is not the process by which CARES Tribal Relief Fund funding is being allocated. ANC leaders responded to questionnaires from the Treasury Department, which will be used to develop a formula that the Treasury will use to determine allocations. The questionnaire did not include a requested dollar amount, and we will be notified by the Treasury of the amount our organizations are eligible to receive, once their formula has been completed.
This misunderstanding is reflective of a harmful narrative that has been spreading through the media in recent days, that Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) and Alaska Village Corporations (AVCs) are attempting to hijack or divert the $8 billion in allocated funding for Native American tribes under the CARES Act into our own coffers. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we would like to dispel these rumors once and for all.
The law, as written, is crystal clear: Alaska Native Corporations are included as eligible tribal governments for CARES funding. The CARES Act uses the definition established by the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA), which defines an “Indian Tribe” as “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act”.
ANCs were not involved in the choice to use the ISDEAA definition. It was a decision made by the Congress when it wrote the bill, and a decision that has been upheld by the Departments of the Treasury and the Interior. However, it is clear to see why the Congress made ANCs eligible for funding. Because the rights of Native Alaskans were bifurcated by the federal government such that tribes are sovereign, while ANCSA corporations actually own Native lands, it is practically impossible to provide meaningful economic, cultural, and social assistance to Alaska Native communities without involving ANCs. If a tribe receives funding to build a new health clinic, but has no title to the land on which that clinic would need to be built, all that funding can do is sit in a tribal bank account. ANCs are essential partner organizations that have a legal mandate to support our shareholders, and have the business expertise to ensure funds are used efficiently.
Further, Alaska Native Corporations are not unique in our business enterprises. Many lower 48 tribes operate enterprises that net many times the annual revenue of ANCs, and these tribes are also considered to be eligible under the CARES Act. There is no valid reason to bar ANCs from receiving relief funding so long as the operations of other tribes remain eligible. The efforts by some lower 48 tribal organizations to single out ANCs, while ignoring the business enterprises of their own membership, is not a good-faith approach to sharing resources in response to a pandemic. 
The truth is that Alaska’s tribes are still among the poorest in the nation as a collective, with most occupying the bottom quartile of wealth. Without the land holdings, employees, and payroll of Alaska Native Corporations, Alaskan tribes would be left destitute by any formula from the Treasury Department that considers those items as factors within its distribution formula. ANCs have made significant progress in creating wealth and economic opportunity for Alaska Native communities, but being excluded from this essential funding during the midst of a pandemic could set our economic progress back by years, if not decades.
It is our hope that this confusion can be ended soon, and are heartened to see that fewer than 1% of Alaskan tribes are disputing the CARES Act’s language. The law is clear, our peoples’ needs are urgent, and every moment of delay over this manufactured scandal only deepens the suffering being felt by indigenous communities across the country. We need to put this legal bickering behind us and focus on the work of building up our communities and laying the groundwork for an economic recovery. ANCs have already started taking these steps, from donating critical supplies to villages to issuing additional shareholder dividends and building temporary housing for village residents that cannot travel. We will continue to help our people, by every means possible.
When native people stand together, from Alaska to Hawaii to Washington DC and everywhere in between, we are far stronger than we stand apart. Rather than letting the media or self-interested organizations divide us during this critical time, we should be turning to one another for support and sharing experiences. We are ready and willing to work with tribes across the country to protect our people from this pandemic, and we look forward to building a united recovery effort that takes every tribal community’s needs into account.    
Nathan McCowan – President/CEO, St. George Tanaq Corporation (Village of St. George) (ANVCA Chair)
Chuck Totemoff – President/CEO, Chenega Corporation (Village of Chenega)  (ANVCA Vice Chair)
Jana Turvey – President/CEO, Leisnoi, Inc. (Village of Woody Island – ANVCA Treasurer)
Nancy Andrew – CEO, St. Mary’s Native Corporation (Village of St. Mary’s – ANVCA Secretary)
Trefon Angasan – Chair, Alaska Peninsula Corporation (Villages of Kokhanok, Newhalen, Port Heiden, South Naknek, Ugashik)
Ron Philemonoff – President/CEO, Tanadgusix Corporation (Village of St. Paul)
Dorothy Shockley – President/CEO, Bean Ridge Corporation (Village of Manley Hot Springs)
Melissa Kookesh – Chairwoman, Kootznoowoo Inc. (Village of Angoon)
Anne Thomas – President, Chitina Native Corporation (Village of Chitina)


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