YKHC Board of Directors adopts resolution opposing formation of a Regional Tribal Government in the YK Delta

by YKHC Staff

On January 22, 2021, the YKHC Board of Directors met and adopted a resolution opposing the formation of a regional tribal government in the YK Delta. YKHC Resolution No. 2021.01.01.

For nearly 30 years, and most recently in 2013, efforts have been made by several entities including the Calista Corporation, to form, or to encourage the formation of, a regional tribal government in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region with executive, legislative, and judicial branch powers.

Previously, in January, 2014, the YKHC Board of Directors passed Resolution No. 2014.01.01, which found that a single regional tribe was not in the best interests of YKHC, and it strongly opposed the efforts.

Over the past several years, Calista and others have renewed their campaign. As noted in media reports, Calista engaged an outside consultant to assist in these efforts. According to the consultant, a regional tribal government would put it in better position to develop resource projects like the Donlin mine (See https://www.kyuk.org/post/calista-corporation-leads-effortregional-tribal-government). Calista prepared a draft constitution and a draft resolution to facilitate the creation of a regional tribal government and distributed them to tribes.

However, as noted by the YKHC Board, YKHC’s 58 member tribes have functioned as autonomous tribal entities throughout history, consist of distinct communities, govern and maintain political influence or authority over their members as single autonomous political entities, and their members have descended from these historic tribes.

In addition, YKHC’s 58 member tribes are already federally recognized tribes as determined by the Department of Interior and evidenced by the Department’s 1993 list of all tribes which the Secretary of Interior recognized to be eligible to receive services from the United States because of their status as tribes.

The United States Congress subsequently ratified the Department of Interior’s federal recognition of these tribes, evidenced by Congress’ enactment of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994.

Moreover, the YK-Delta’s large geographical size; diversity of environments; diversity of tribes; diversity of distinct political communities; diversity of language dialects; diversity of cultures, dances, foods, histories and ways of knowing; there is no basis in either federal Indian law or policy to support a single regional tribe in the YK Delta.

As a result, the YKHC Board expressed its continued support for its 58 member tribes exercising governmental authority over their own villages and members, and not a single distant regional tribe making decisions about villages and people with whom it has no relations to or political ties.

According to Dan Winkelman, YKHC President and CEO, “This is another sad attempt to take legitimate tribal authority away from the already existing 58 tribes of the YK Delta that govern themselves and place power into the hands of a few.”

The YKHC Board concluded that a regional tribal government would not unite the villages of the region and would not be in the best interests of its 58 federally recognized member tribes. It expressed its opposition to Calista’s draft resolution and constitution, and any other effort by any entity that would encourage the establishment a single regional tribe in the YK Delta.

The YKHC Board forwarded its resolution and a draft resolution in opposition to the formation of a regional tribal government to the tribes for review and consideration at the next meeting of their tribal governments.

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