What are we doing 2 ?


While pulling together what I thought I knew about this subject I ran slam crash into a problem. Something I thought I knew was entirely , completely  factually incorrect. It has taken awhile to reorganize my thoughts around this changed landscape. 

 I’m not sure I have sorted out what- is from what I thought  is was

So feel free to point to any shaky pieces of constuction here… 

Per WIKI, A government is the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects[1]. 

Native American governments have limited authority under federal law . 

The tension between state and tribal authority exists nationwide . Alaska’s unique position, post ANSCA, has left us with so many questions and problems it’s hard to tease a thread out to start a conversation. 

Part of the problem is that there is no simple governmental hierarchy to refer to . City, borough, state or the like … 

While state governments have limited authority under federal law, the history of states’ rights and  dual sovereignty questions regarding the tenth amendment ”   The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. ‘  shows shifts to and away from the hierarchical fed over state view and the same for dual sovereignty. 

As I said in a previous post  ANSCA was presumed to have ended the (quasi) nation to nation relationship Alaska Natives  had with the federal government up to that time. 

From A Primer on Alaska Native Sovereignty by Douglas K Mertz, in 1991, Mr Mertz  says ; 

“ANCSA organized Alaskan Natives into twelve regional corporations, loosely designed along ethnic and geographical lines, plus one corporation for Alaskan Natives living outside the state; and village corporations for each “Native village” with a predominantly Native character and a Native population of at least 25. Over 200 Native villages eventually organized ANCSA corporations under the state business corporation code, as did a number of urban Native groups. The regional and village corporations received the right to over 44 million acres of land, and they and their members received nearly $1 billion in monetary payments. In return, all aboriginal claims to lands and any aboriginal hunting and fishing rights in Alaska were extinguished. 

ANCSA was the high tide of assimilationism in Alaska. Congress explicitly rejected any role in receiving or administering ANCSA benefits for existing village councils and other groups organized under the Alaskan IRA. Instead, it required organization under corporations created under state law and subject to state regulation. Eventually all land conveyed under ANCSA was to be subject to state taxation. 16 Village corporations were required to convey a portion of their lands to the state-chartered municipality in the community, or if none existed, to the state in trust for a future municipality. And all but one of the existing reservations in the state were terminated.17 Congress stated in the preamble to the law that 

the settlement should be accomplished . . . without establishing any permanent racially defined institutions, rights, privileges, or obligations, without creating a reservation system or lengthy wardship or trusteeship, and without adding to the categories of property and institutions enjoying special tax privileges… 

The Department of the Interior has consistently interpreted this language and the other provisions cited above as ending its trustee duty to former reserve lands in Alaska and as ending its supervisory role over those lands, and has refused to accept ANCSA land into trust status.18 Since passage of ANCSA the Interior Department has withdrawn much of its presence in rural Alaska. It turned the system of BIA schools over to the state, which now provides all educational services in rural communities, either directly or through municipalities. Most of the rural health care system is now provided by the state. The Interior Department does not maintain BIA personnel in rural communities or administer federal programs as though the villages occupied reservations. State agencies treat Native villages (except Metlakatla) as within the state’s criminal, civil, and regulatory jurisdiction.’ 

His closing remarks  were prescient  as well as clear about the conflicts ahead; 

“Caselaw on Alaska Native sovereignty has developed slowly, and it will likely be some years before there are definitive judicial rulings on most of the questions of greatest concern to Alaska Natives. In the meantime, the conflicting interests of Natives and non-Natives, village councils and state government, and villagers and ANCSA corporations have prevented either Congress or the state legislature from taking steps to sort out the legal rights of Alaska Natives. The Department of the Interior has been immobilized in any attempt to find a way out of the confusion by its own internal conflicts.38 Several panels and commissions have been created to offer expert advice on resolving the conflicts,39 but to date none has produced concrete results or brought the parties closer together. Yet another federal/state panel was recently authorized by Congress. 40 Unless it or a similar effort achieves consensus on legislative clarification of the issues, it seems likely that the courts will, over the years, resolve these questions. In the meantime all parties must live with a great deal of uncertainty.” 

Indeed, court cases and their outcome have largely shaped what resolution we do have here today. 

What we have is not yet adequate by any means.  

At times, people have  grown more angry than uncertain . Senator Stevens  was soundly denounced in 2003 for legislation he introduced , which he felt would tidy up many areas of concern but many native constituents felt muddied larger waters. 

 (Personal note- Senator Stevens saddled us with a huge legacy of corporate structures- Reg Corps, village corps, CDQs. I don’t think  he ever met a corp he didn’t like which has left us a mess to contend with. Since he had a hand in making this particular mess  I’m not sad he got bitten this time… though he was partly right about the why of what he was trying to do ) 

The one moderately clear exercise of governmental powers by tribes is found in provision of social services for tribal members. The renewed trust responsibility and recognition of tribes in Alaska has allowed Alaska Natives to contract , through their governmental bodies, with the fed to provide many social services BIA administered within that trust relationship prior to the self Detemination Act of 1975. 

from BIA now we have: 

“Created by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the Division of Indian Self-Determination is charged with the responsibility to further American Indian tribes’ exercise of Self-Determination as a matter of policy. The Division also carries out the Delegation of Authority Initiative which allows for the delegation of authority for the administration and oversight of self-determination contracts and grants to the agency level. ‘ 

Relevant to Self-Governance

PL 67-85
(HR 7848)
11/2/21 Snyder Act Authorized appropriations and expenditures through the BIA/DOI for the administration of Indian affairs, support of education, health programs, economic assistance, and for other purposes.
PL 85-671   Rancheria Act Terminated the Federal Government’s trust responsibility for dozens of California tribes during the 1950’s.
PL 88-419     Amended the Rancheria Act
PL 93-638
(S. 1017)
1/4/75 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) To provide maximum Indian participation in the Government and education of the Indian people; to provide for the full participation of Indian tribes in programs and services conducted by the Federal Government for Indians and to encourage the development of human resources of the Indian people; to establish a program of assistance to upgrade Indian education; to support the right of Indian citizens to control their own educational activities; and for other purposes. (Title I is the Indian Self-Determination Act; Title II is the Indian Education Assistance Act)
PL 100-472
(HR 1223)
10/8/88 Indian Self-Determination Amendments of 1987 Added Title III to ISDEAA, Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Project for the Department of Interior, BIA (REPEALED by P.L. 106-260).
PL 101-644
(HR 2006)
11/29/90 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act Amendments of 1990 Made technical and clarifying amendments.
PL 102-184
(HR 3394)
12/4/91 Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Project Act Amended Title III of ISDEAA. (REPEALED by P.L. 106-260.)
PL 102-477 10/23/92 Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 Authorized the integration of employment, training, and related services provided by Indian tribal governments. Intended to make select programs of DoI, DHHS, DoL, and DoEd available in an integrated fashion to applicants (Current “477” Tribes). Act amended by PL 106-568 (see below)
PL 103-413
(HR 4842)
10/25/94 Indian Self-Determination Act Amendments of 1994 (1) Specified the terms of contracts entered into by the United States and Indian tribal organizations under ISDEAA (in Title I, the “Indian Self-Determination Contract Reform Act of 1994”);
(2) Applied Self-Governance permanently and broadly to the entire DoI (in Title II, “Tribal Self-Governance act of 1994”, which established the new Title IV in ISDEAA);.
PL 103-454   Federally Recognized Indian Tribes List Act Requires the BIA to publish annually in the Federal Register, a list of the federally recognized tribes.
PL 104-193
(HR 3734)
8/22/96 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 Provides for direct funding and administration by Indian tribes of their approved family assistance plans under Section 103, Block Grants to States for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
PL 106-260
(HR 1167)
9/18/00 Tribal Self-Governance Amendments of 2000 Permanently establish Tribal Self-Governance fir Indian Health Service programs in a new Title V; repeals Title III of ISEAA; establishes a Title VI in ISDEAA mandating a self-governance demonstration feasibility study.
PL 106-568
(HR 5528)
12/28/00 Omnibus Indian Advancement Act (1) Recognized two tribes (Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and Graton Rancheria of California) as “federally recognized” tribes.
(2) Title XI, the “Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Demonstration Act Amendments of 2000” permits agencies to waive statutory provisions and to approve tribal plans moving up to 25% of funds from formula grant programs for the creation of employment opportunities and training.


More later… 

Til then, take a look at this if you have time. It’s a long read, 148 pages, but worth it. 



Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the PL history. I’m personally annoyed that even as a accomplished Alaska Native, I’m still considered a “ward” of the Federal Government. Does that mean that perhaps I shouldn’t pay Income Taxes to my parent?

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