The U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to place the land owned by the Craig Tribal Association into federal Indian trust status is an important milestone for the tribes of Alaska and reflects AFN’s long-standing policy on Indian Country and land-into-trust issues.
“Congratulations to the Craig Tribal Association and to the people of Akiachak, whose legal challenge led to the rule change that enabled Interior to proceed,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska’s largest statewide Native organization.
“Placing lands into federal Indian trust in Alaska is an option. It can provide an invaluable and much-needed tool for tribes to promote economic development, address public safety and child welfare issues, and preserve and pass on culture,” Kitka added. “This option is not for everyone. It is a long, drawn-out process and some unanswered questions remain. Another existing tool includes the land bank protections in ANCSA.”
This powerful instrument of self-governance has been unavailable to Alaska tribes until last year, when the BIA eliminated the misguided ‘Alaska exception’ to the federal land-to-trust regulatory policy, following a 2013 federal district court decision in Akiachak Native Community v. U.S. Secretary of the Interior, which ruled that the ban was invalid as arbitrary and capricious.
The Alaska Federation of Natives was formed in October 1966, when more than 400 Alaska Natives representing 17 Native organizations gathered for a three-day conference to address Alaska Native aboriginal land rights. It is now the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska. Its membership includes 152 federally recognized tribes, 152 village corporations, 12 regional corporations and 12 regional non-profit and tribal consortiums that contract and compact to run federal and state programs. AFN is governed by a 38-member Board, which is elected by its membership at the annual convention held each October. The mission of AFN is to enhance and promote the cultural, economic and political voice of the entire Alaska Native community. Learn more at www.nativefederation.org.