FROM THE ARCHIVE

GOP request has Alaska Natives fuming

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MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2002

Republican lawmakers in the Alaska Legislature have asked Secretary of Interior Gale Norton to rescind recognition of more than 200 Alaska Native tribes and villages, a request that has Native leaders fuming.

Former Assistant Secretary Ada Deer, a Clinton appointee, made the administrative decision to recognize the tribes and village governments. But in a letter, Senate President Rick Halford and House Speaker Brian Porter say the federal status of Alaska Natives is not well-grounded legally.

The letter, which was authored by a former lawyer for the Alaska Federation of Natives, inspired Native leaders to write a response of their own. Last week, when Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb was in Anchorage for a consultation meeting, they also blasted the Republicans for their request.

In her days as an attorney, Norton was hired by Republicans in the Alaska Legislature to help their attempt to overturn the Katie John subsistence rights decision. She was paid about $60,000 for her efforts, for which she hired former employer Mountain States Legal Foundation to help draft legal briefs.

Norton has recused herself from the matter since taking over the Interior.

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Letter stirs up turf war (The Anchorage Daily News 1/26)