Law | National | Trust

Alaska tribe weighs next move after victory in land-into-trust case

Students at the Akiachak School in Alaska created a welcome sign for their community. Photo from Akiachak Huskies / Facebook

The Akiachak Native Community of Alaska hopes to follow the land-into-trust process after winning a major court decision.

Tribal leaders will meet later this summer to go over an inventory of their lands, KYUK reports. That will help them determine whether to submit any land-into-trust applications to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“Our elders in the past wanted a land base in order to control our jurisdiction,” Chairman Phillip Peter Sr. told KYUK. “Land is really important, because all those years we didn’t have any recognition from the state of Alaska. We need a jurisdiction in order to control our village.”

The tribe is the lead plaintiff in Akiachak Native Community v. Department of the Interior. The case forced the BIA to open the land-into-trust process to Alaska for the first time in decades.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Oral Arguments in Akiachak Native Community v. DOI

The BIA hasn't said which tribes have filed applications but plans to provide a list later this year, KYUK reported. In the past, the agency refused to move forward with such applications due the policy that was deemed illegal as part of the case.

The state of Alaska intervened in the lawsuit but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the challenge on July 1. The state can always file litigation if and when the BIA approves a land-into-trust application, the decision read.

The state hasn't said whether it will pursue further appeals in the case.

Get the Story:
Akiachak Prepares To Inventory Land For Trust Status (KYUK 7/8)
Alaska Native lands ruling stirs deep concern (The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 7/9)

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Akiachak Native Community v. Department of the Interior (July 1, 2016)

Federal Register Notices:
Land Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (December 23, 2014)
Land Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (July 1, 2014)
Land Acquisitions in the State of Alaska (May 1, 2014)

Relevant Documents:
Dear Tribal Leader Letter from Kevin Washburn (April 30, 2014)

District Court Decisions:
Akiachak Native Community v. Jewell (September 30, 2013)
Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar (March 31, 2013)

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