Oct. 13, 2015

Governor, Anchorage Mayor declare second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples Day

Alaska is now the first state to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. Governor Bill Walker signed the proclamation Monday morning, on the heels of a similar announcement by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. First Alaskans Institute President Liz Medicine Crow made the announcement at the Elders and Youth Conference.

Sovereignty over tribal lands the subject of Gov. Walker meetings in rural Alaska

In 2006 tribes sued the federal government over the right to transfer tribal lands into federal ownership, or trust status, which would give tribes wider control over laws and management of lands, while restricting the power of the state. Trust status also has tax implications. The state of Alaska argued Alaskan tribal rights to apply to put land into trust were extinguished by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Alaskan tribes allowed to exercise same rights as lower 48 tribes

Tribes in Alaska are celebrating a decision that allows them to apply to have lands placed into trust status with the federal government. The Department of Interior issued regulations settling a long-running dispute between Interior, the state of Alaska, and tribes over an interpretation of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA). 

William Walsh, age 61, is filing suit in federal court to overturn his exile from an Interior Alaska village of 240 people. The Tanana tribe banned him after two Alaska State Troopers were killed on May 1, 2014. Walsh was the leader of a small group that didn't recognize the state of Alaska's authority. He clashed with the tribal government as well. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner reports Walsh squatted on private and tribal lands, claiming ownership.

After a court ruling that the Department of Interior (DOI) improperly excluded Alaska tribes from a process long available to lower 48 tribes, DOI announced a proposal that would allow it to accept Alaska tribal lands into trust. Although any action is years in the future, the change would provide certain protections to those lands.

A study on the depletion of herring in Southeast Alaska is prompting discussions on whether and how it may be possible to replenish their numbers.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee heard no opposition to a bill that would strengthen Alaska tribal courts and law enforcement, but the state of Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski are likely to oppose it.

Alaska Native corporations received contaminated sites as part of their land settlement, bringing them expense and complications as they try to clean up, exchange, or return the sites.

Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing new tax credits to help the three refineries in Alaska to provide lower-cost fuels to in-state customers.

A bill that would symbolically make all 20 Alaska Native languages official state languages is headed to the House floor for a vote.

The House Finance Committee frees up $13 million for school districts, by changing the way the state counts students.