Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Navajo Nation (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah)
Posted: June 25, 2021

The capital of the Navajo Nation is located in Window Rock, Arizona, named for its famed natural feature. Photo: Ben FrantzDale

The Navajo Nation 

Office of the President and Vice President

June 25, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court rules that Alaska Native Corporations are eligible to receive CARES Act funds 

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in the Chehalis et al. v. Yellencase, affirming that Alaska Native Corporations fall within the definition of “Indian tribes” under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and are eligible for funding under Title V of the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020 and provided $8 billion for tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act defined “Tribal governments” as “the recognized governing body of an Indian Tribe.”

The Navajo Nation was a plaintiff in the case, along with 15 other tribal nations, who argued that Alaska Native Corporations do not fit the definition of an “Indian tribe” in part because they are not federally-recognized tribes, and therefore are not entitled to CARES Act funds. 

“We have a strong coalition of tribes that are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling. This case was never about the funds. Instead, it was about upholding tribal sovereignty and the status of federally-recognized tribes. Many tribal nations have had to fight hard over the course of many years to gain federal recognition to be eligible for programs and services that ultimately benefit our people across Indian Country. The ruling undermines federally-recognized tribes and will have consequences far beyond the allocation of CARES Act dollars, but we as federally-recognized tribes will continue to stand strong and advocate for our tribal nations. I recommend that Congress clarify that Alaska Native Corporations are not federally recognized tribes under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to avoid this issue in the future.” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. 

The Supreme Court ruling does not affect the Navajo Nation’s allocation of COVID-19 recovery funds under the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law after the CARES Act. The American Rescue Plan Act references “federally-recognized tribes” and does not use the definition of “Indian tribes” under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. 

“We have to continue fighting for our people on all fronts and we should not let today’s ruling discourage us from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the ruling precludes the Nation from receiving additional funds under the CARES Act, we have to remain focused on the opportunities the American Rescue Plan Act presents to help our communities and our people recover from the pandemic and prepare us for any possible future pandemics. We have to focus on planning for the long-term for our future generations,” said Vice President Myron Lizer.  

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