Tribal land rights grow in Akiachak vs Salazar
Heather Kendall-Miller, NARF attorney
A DC district court decision quietly released on Easter Sunday, has huge implications for Alaska tribal and state lands jurisdiction. The court found the Secretary of Interior has the authority to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. Most believed that was not possible after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed. Native American Rights Fund attorney Heather Kendall Miller argued the case on behalf of Alaska tribes. She told APRN’s Lori Townsend the ruling is an important recognition of tribal self determination and trust status will protect tribes from lawsuits, taxation and foreclosure.
In the case of Akiachak Native Community vs Salazar, the court affirmed the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. The ruling also states that Alaska tribes have the right to be treated the same as all other federally recognized tribes.
The suit was brought in 2006 by four tribes, the Akiachak Native Community, Chalkyitsik Village, the Tukuksak Native Community, the Chilkoot Indian Association and one Native person, Alice Kavairlook. They challenged the Interior Secretary’s decision to leave a regulation in place that treats Alaska Natives differently than other Native peoples.