The interim Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Regional Tribal Government (RTG) representatives recently met to discuss immediate concerns for YK Tribes and RTG members. Stephen Maxie, Jr., of Napaskiak, Alaska, was voted as interim Speaker.
Additionally, a priority is the Tribal funding portion of the American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress. The $1.9 trillion Plan provides $20 billion for the 574 federally recognized Tribal governments. These direct payments from the U.S. Department of Treasury are to address some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Included is a base funding of $1.74 million per Tribe, as directed by Congress.
The interim RTG members passed a resolution calling upon the Treasury department to provide an additional $10 million base funding to each of the federally recognized Tribes. Limited, aging, or nonexistent water and sewer infrastructure has increased the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Alaska Native peoples.
On March 24, 2021, interim Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium President Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson reported key data to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: “An August 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study showed that Alaska Natives and American Indians were among the highest risk groups for COVID-19 with an incidence rate that is 3.5-times greater than that of non-Hispanic whites. Further, additional State of Alaska data indicate that Alaska Native and American Indian people are 5-times as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and have a mortality rate nearly 4-times that of the white population in Alaska.”
Due to rural Alaska’s limited water infrastructure, strict and careful instructions are provided to create a clean water basin with water and bleach. Unfortunately, in September 2020 the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) shared that bleach and hand sanitizer was the most common reasons for “calls of potential poisoning in children 5 years old and younger” to the Alaska Poison Center helpline.
The Interim Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Tribal Government formed in February 2021. A website is in development.