Alaska tribe claims victory in dispute over transportation funding

Members of the Douglas Indian Association of Alaska view the Aak'w Kwaan totem pole shortly before ts completion in April 2015. Photo from Facebook

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes won the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the Douglas Indian Association.

The lawsuit was filed in state court last April. The Douglas Indian Association accused the much larger tribe of withholding nearly $1 million in federal transportation funds.

Judge Louis Menendez did not rule on the merits of the claim. Instead he determined that the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes could not be sued without its consent.

"The lawsuit was dismissed due to sovereign immunity defense of the tribe," Central Council President Richard Peterson said in a press release. "However, had the suit gone to trial, the tribe would have prevailed because DIA’s claims were entirely without merit."

The Douglas Indian Association wasn't surprised by the dismissal. By going to court, the tribe's leaders hoped to show how the funds were mismanaged but didn't get a chance.

"I am appalled and disgusted," President Butch Laiti said in a press release. "They took our money, and are hiding behind Sovereign Immunity. They are trying to blame us for the situation."

At one point, the Central Council offered some funds to address the issue but the Douglas Indian Association declined to accept the money. The amount was put at about $150,000 by both tribes.

Several other tribes had been a part of the same transportation consortium.

The case is Douglas Indian Association v. Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, No. 1JU-15-00625CI.

Get the Story:
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