Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell met with Gov. Bill Walker for a good three hours on Thursday during the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention in Fairbanks.
It was a private, unnoticed meeting prior to Jewell’s Friday announcement that she has signed Order 3342, which directs her department to cooperate and collaborate with Alaska Native tribes on more of a government-to-government basis.
The directive follows court actions that unwound provisions of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, whereby reservation land was disallowed in Alaska. Gov. Walker chose to not fight the court ruling to the Supreme Court.
Today’s eight-page ruling directs the federal government to begin working toward co-management of Native lands. The new relationship between the tribes and the federal government makes no mention of the State of Alaska as an entity with any cooperative or collaborative standing. The State of Alaska simply doesn’t factor in with tribes who align with the federal government.
The action came after the settling of Akiachak Native Community v. Department of the Interior, which allows the Bureau of Indian Affairs to begin taking title to land in Alaska on behalf of Alaska tribes. This is the introduction of “Indian Country” into a state that has been without it for decades. It will leave the State of Alaska with no civil authority over large sections of Alaska land. There will be no taxes paid by the lands that go into federal trust. It’s a whole new world.
The order includes collaborative management of fish, wildlife, plant material, historical sites, landscapes, resources, maintenance and information relating to tribal, cultural, or educational activities.
No announcement of the Jewell meeting or reaction to the order was given by the Governor’s Office or Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has long been a proponent of Indian Country in Alaska and has patiently prodded Gov. Walker to not challenge the court ruling in favor of tribes and against the State of Alaska.
“This Secretarial Order reflects the Obama Administration’s deep commitment to strengthen respect between the United States government and Native American and Alaska Native leaders and communities while boosting our efforts to increase tribal self-determination and self-governance,” said Secretary Jewell in a statement. “This kind of collaboration with tribal nations will help ensure that we’re appropriately and genuinely integrating indigenous expertise, experience and perspectives into the management of public lands.”
The order applies to all the agencies in the Department of Interior, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Reclamation, directing them to identify opportunities and try to partner with tribes in the management of their lands and waters.