An Anchorage-based Indian law specialist says the decision still marks a major change that turns long-held principles of Indian law upside down.
Alaska’s state government would formally recognize all of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized tribes under legislation passed Friday by the state Senate in a 15-0 vote.
To get on the 2022 ballot, initiative organizers will have to collect more than 36,000 signatures.
At times, Tlingit & Haida tribal officials were outraged because some city officials brushed aside the tribe’s assertion of its sovereignty on the land where it runs its fireworks shop.
House Bill 123 has 12 co-sponsors in the House. It has passed through the Tribal Affairs Committee and the State Affairs Committee and is headed to the House floor for a vote.
“I don’t know if the gravity really is hitting everybody, but we’ve been arguing for recognition since statehood, and under this administration the attorney general has provided an opinion that, yes, tribes do exist, that we have inherent sovereignty,” said Richard Peterson, president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
The case centered around a dispute between Douglas Indian Association and Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska over about $1 million in federal transportation funds. The case had been watched closely by other tribes because it tested the jurisdiction of state courts over tribal disputes.
Trust status would fulfill generations of desire for greater tribal sovereignty, said Akiachak Native Community Council chairman Phillip Peter Sr.
A bill that will exempt tribes from taxation on social welfare programs has made its way through Congress and is awaiting the president’s signature.