Law | Trust

NARF calls land-into-trust case a victory for all Alaska tribes





A ruling from a federal judge in Washington, D.C., is a victory for all Alaska tribes, the Native American Rights Fund said on Tuesday.

In a March 31 decision, Judge Rudolph Contreras said Alaska tribes can follow the land-into-trust process. He rejected arguments that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 requires Alaska tribes to be treated differently.

"This decision is a victory for all Alaska tribes," NARF said in a press release. "The ruling will allow Alaska tribes to petition the Secretary to have non-ANCSA lands placed into trust and the opportunity to enhance their ability to regulate alcohol, respond to domestic violence, and generally protect the health, safety, and welfare of tribal members."

The historic decision sets the stage for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to change its regulations to include Alaska tribes. But since the state of Alaska was allowed to intervene in the case, a trip to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely.

From there, the U.S. Supreme Court could end up hearing the dispute. Incidentally, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., as an attorney in private practice, represented Alaska in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie, which held the ANSCA extinguished all Indian Country in the state except for one reservation.

NARF represented the Native Village of Venetie in that case.

District Court Decision:
Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar (March 31, 2013)

Related Stories:
Judge rules tribes in Alaska can follow land-into-trust process (4/1)
Rep. Young won't support Alaska tribes for land-into-trust fix (03/20)