Alaska tribes enter new era with first land-into-trust application
Thursday, October 20, 2016
More on: aaron schutt, afn, alaska, alaska native, ancs, bia, ccthita, dc circuit, jahna lindemuth, land-into-trust, larry roberts, meetings, richard peterson, tcc
Thousands of Native leaders, elders and youth are meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, all week. Photo by Eric Engman / First Alaskans Institute
The very first land-into-trust application has been filed in Alaska
and the Bureau of Indian Affairs stands ready to help tribes restore their homelands, a top official said on Thursday.
The new era is starting out small. The Craig Tribal Association filed an application for a one-acre parcel that includes its headquarters and a head start.
But with more tribes poised to join the movement, the BIA's regional office wants to help, principal deputy assistant secretary Larry Roberts said at the largest gathering of Alaska Natives in the state.
"We have 11 employees that stand ready to work on fee-to-trust in Alaska,"
Roberts said in Fairbanks on the opening day of the 50th annual Alaska Federation of
The application comes just three months after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the BIA's decision to include Alaska in its land-into-trust regulations. For decades, the agency had excluded the 220-plus tribes in the state under an interpretation that was found to be erroneous during a prior stage in the case.
The following month, the state of Alaska announced that it would not appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, ushering in a dramatic change in tribal relations.
"We are now in an era of collaboration and communication," Attorney General Jahna
Lindemuth said at AFN. The decision to drop the case was one of her first on the job, she noted.
Even though tribes in the lower 48 have been following the land-into-trust
process since 1934, it's uncharted territory for those in Alaska. The rural character of the state and the presence of Native-owned corporations has posed some interesting questions.
Regional corporations, for example, own the subsurface rights to their lands while village corporations own the surface rights. That sort of situation could complicate matters in the future, argued Aaron Schutt, the president and CEO of Doyon Ltd, one of the 13 regional corporations.
"There's no special Alaska circumstance that requires the BIA to consult, or get the permission of, or otherwise even involve the regional corporation
in the decision," Schutt said. "That troubles those of us who might own that subsurface."
At the same time, Schutt said Doyon supports the goal of restoring tribal homelands. The corporation and the Tanana Chief Conference are collaborating on a potential application.
"There are lots of opportunities to work together," Schutt said during a panel discussion.
With just one application in the queue for now, the state is actively encouraging the public to participate. Although Lindemuth plans to submit comments to the BIA by November 9,
it's anyone's guess as to how long the review process might take.
"It is a 16-step process," Roberts noted. Approval could take as little as year or "many years depending on the application," he added.
Like the Craig Tribal Association, the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes is starting out small when it comes to land-into-trust.
President Richard Peterson said a possible application is "just our parking lot."
But the fact that the BIA will process any application in Alaska, however large or small, speaks volumes.
"It's a very early stage right now. It's a very exciting time," Peterson said.
"There's a lot of potential."
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Native Community v. Department of the Interior (July 1, 2016)
Federal Register Notices:
Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (December 23, 2014)
Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (July 1, 2014)
Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (May 1, 2014)
Tribal Leader Letter from Kevin Washburn (April 30, 2014)
District Court Decisions:
Native Community v. Jewell (September 30, 2013)
Native Community v. Salazar (March 31, 2013)
administration fudges numbers to hit land-into-trust goal (10/12)
Alaska enters a new era with tribes and land-into-trust (08/29)
tribes enter new era as state drops land-into-trust battle (08/16)
Indian Association plans to follow land-into-trust process (07/15)
tribe weighs next move after victory on land-into-trust (7/11)
Bell-Jones: Clearing up misconceptions about Alaska tribes (7/5)
in Alaska celebrate long-awaited victory in trust land case (7/4)
court poses tough questions in Alaska land-into-trust case (03/07)
Patrick Sullivan: Court to
rule on land-into-trust for Alaska tribes (1/5)
Vice President Joe Biden
reflects on triumphs of Obama's Indian policies (10/28)
Jenny Bell-Jones: Opposition
to tribes in Alaska defies justice (09/17)
Mark Trahant: Telling the
story about tribal sovereignty in Alaska (09/04)
Opinion: Alaska will lose
appeal in BIA land-into-trust lawsuit (09/02)
President Obama meets Native
leaders after landing in Alaska (09/01)
Transcript: Obama remarks
following Native leaders roundtable (09/01)
Alaska governor pursues appeal in landmark
land-into-trust case (8/25)
Obama to visit Native villages on historic trip to Alaska (8/25)
Alaska Natives to welcome President Obama at end of
Mary Bishop: Beware of
bringing land-into-trust process to Alaska (8/25)
Jenny Bell-Jones: Embrace land-into-trust for
Alaska tribes (8/18)
Land-into-trust brings hope for Alaska tribes (8/17)
Richard Peterson: Alaska GOP ignores facts on
faces deadline in major land-into-trust case (8/11)
Sarah Deer: Ending the cold war over
land-into-trust in Alaska (8/3)
Liz Medicine Crow:
Land-into-trust a safety issue in Alaska (07/24)
Opinion: Take a modern
approach to land-into-trust in Alaska (5/4)
Opinion: Deadline approaches
in Alaska land-into-trust dispute (04/27)
New governor of Alaska seeks
delay in land-into-trust litigation (2/5)
Law Article: Major change for
Alaska tribes with land-into-trust (12/24)
BIA finalizes rule to add Alaska tribes to
land-into-trust process (12/19)
VAWA jurisdiction provision
poses special issue for Alaska tribes (12/15)
Congress clears bill to extend VAWA tribal
provisions to Alaska (12/12)
backs measure to extend VAWA tribal provisions to Alaska (12/9)
Vice President Biden calls for inclusion of Alaska
Natives in VAWA (12/4)
Opinion: Land-into-trust will
help tribes in Alaska meet needs (07/17)
Mike Williams: Trust lands
are vital to tribal self-determination (07/02)
BIA extends public comments on land-into-trust rule
for Alaska (7/1)
land-into-trust decisions in Alaska pending appeal (6/27)
Opinion: Unanswered questions about land-into-trust
in Alaska (6/26)
Land-into-trust rule makes life safer in Alaska (05/20)
Tribal leaders laud inclusion
of Alaska in land-into-trust process (05/09)
NCAI praises inclusion of Alaska tribes in
land-into-trust process (5/2)
accepts public comments on land-into-trust rule for Alaska (5/1)
BIA proposes rule to include Alaska in
land-into-trust process (4/30)
Judge deletes Alaska
exception in land-into-trust regulations (10/02)
Sen. Begich supports
land-into-trust decision for Alaska tribes (4/23)
APRN: NARF attorney discusses
decision in land-into-trust case (04/09)
Decision in Alaska case could reopen
land-into-trust regulation (4/5)
calls land-into-trust case 'victory' for all Alaska tribes (4/3)
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)
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