The State of Alaska has filed an appeal in the recent court decision of Akiachak versus Salzaar. The ruling reinforced an existing law where the Secretary of Interior cannot discriminate against Alaska tribes in comparison to the lower 48 Indian tribes when filing a petition to put tribal lands into trust status.
The Yup’ik people of Akiachak, filed this lawsuit, with the intention of having a land base where the Yup’ik can continue to hunt and fish freely. Akiacuak Tribal Chief, Phillip Peter Senior says,
“Teguyugluku nuna tamalkuan, nuautvut tamalkuan, aulukluku tegumiaqlluku, kitumun wani atanirturcetevkenaki, taugaam wankuta Yuguluta , ciuliamtenek ayagluta Yuguluta, ataaniurluku augkut wa tua-I ciuliaput catairutelriit, tauten qallaatelalrulriit, ukveqlluki wankuta tamakut wani qanelrit piukut.”
“we want control of our lands, all of our lands, taking care of the land ourselves, instead of others lording over us, our ancestors who have long since gone on before us, would talk about someday having control over our lands again, we believe in that hope and that is why we are at this point today.”
Native American Rights Attorney, Heather Kendall-Miller, tried the case and says the State of Alaska’s appeal continues the process in the judicial arena, “so nothing is going to happen real suddenly on this, until the litigation is completed,” says Kendall-Miller.
She says the appeal will be heard in the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington D-C and that a decision may take up to another year.
“and their argument is that they believe that the Alaska native claims settlement act somehow implicitly took away the secretary’s authority to place lands into trust in Alaska, so that will be something that will be addressed on appeal,” says Kendall-Miller.
The region’s ANSCA Corporation, Calista, says they will work with the AVCP Tribes in order to ensure subsistence protections. “we can all work together to ensure continued Federal protection of subsistence rights and activities,” says spokesman Thom Leonard.
Kendall-Miller says once the Court of Appeals rules in favor of either party; each will have the option of filing their arguments in the Supreme Court.