Opposition to Any Congressional Compromise that Imposes Additional Requirements or Limitations on Alaska Tribes’ Ability to Place Land into Trust

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TITLE: Opposition to Any Congressional Compromise that Imposes Additional Requirements or Limitations on Alaska Tribes’ Ability to Place Land into Trust

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, federally recognized Tribes in Alaska have the same legal status as other federally recognized Tribes singled out as political entities in the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, as part of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to take real property into trust on behalf of Tribes and individual Indians, and amended the Act in 1936 to facilitate its application to the Territory of Alaska; and

WHEREAS, the land into trust process has long been a keystone of federal Indian policy and an integral component of tribal self-determination, giving Tribes the ability to enhance and expand tribal land bases, protect tribal homelands from alienation, and exercise greater tribal governmental authority over internal affairs and tribal lands; and

WHEREAS, in 1980, the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the first time promulgated a regulatory process to make fee-to-trust transactions more uniform. Those regulations expressly excluded acquisition of trust land by the Secretary for Tribes or tribal members situated in Alaska other than for Metlakatla; and

WHEREAS, for 30 years Alaska Tribes were wrongfully excluded from the regulatory process used by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to place tribally-owned fee lands into trust status; and

WHEREAS, in 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar that the exclusion of Alaska Tribes from the lands-into-trust process was unlawful; and

WHEREAS, in accordance with the decision in Akiachak and after direct government-to-government consultation with Alaska’s Tribes, the Secretary of the Interior has developed and published a final rule amending the trust lands regulation at 25 C.F.R. § 151.1 to remove the “Alaska exception” and permit all of Alaska’s 229 tribal governments to participate in the lands-into-trust process; and

WHEREAS, Alaska Tribes oppose any effort to seek a “congressional compromise” that will affect their rights to acquire tribal lands in trust under existing laws and regulations and further delay and impair the right of Alaska’s Tribes to participate in the lands-into-trust process, while also allowing non-tribal organizations, out-of state politicians, and ANCSA corporate interests to influence and possibly determine the future of trust lands in Alaska.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NCAI opposes any effort under the guise of a “compromise” to secure congressionally-imposed limitations on Alaska Tribes’ ability to place their fee owned lands into trust; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.


CERTIFICATION

The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2015 Midyear Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the St. Paul River Centre, St. Paul, MN, June 28 to July 1, 2015, with a quorum present.