After a federal appeals court last week dismissed the state of Alaska’s challenge in a tribal land rights case, the four Alaska tribes that sued the Interior Department may proceed with land petition proceedings. That includes Akiachak and Tuluksak.
Alaska tribes can start asking the federal government to take their lands into trust. If approved, the lands would essentially be taken out of state jurisdiction, like Lower 48 Indian Country.
Phillip Peter Sr. chairs the Akiachak Native Community Council. He said trust status would fulfill generations of desire for greater tribal sovereignty.
“Our elders in the past wanted a land base in order to control our jurisdiction,” Peter said. “Land is really important, because all those years we didn’t have any recognition from the state of Alaska. We need a jurisdiction in order to control our village.”
Peter hopes trust status will offer that control through improved public safety and policing. He said defined land jurisdiction and federal funding that comes with trust status will make those changes possible.
The Interior Department will publish a list of tribes that have filed for trust status later this year. Tribes contacted by KYUK would not say if they are among those tribes. But Peter said the Akiachack tribe and Akiachack Native Corp. are meeting after the height of the summer subsistence season to inventory their lands for trust status. Peter said they’ll look at restricted lands, unrestricted lands and corporation lands in the town site.
Peter said trust status advances the Akiachack tribe’s self-determination and fulfills at least one of their elders’ teachings.
“It will be helpful, especially for the younger generation, from my son to granddaughter and grandsons. We are paving the way. And our elders before they passed on, they told us and instructed us to take care of our land, even though we had hard times, not to give up. It’s our right,” he said.
Peter would not comment on the trust legal case. The Tuluksak Native Community would not comment on any land trust issues.