House creates special committee on tribal affairs - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, April 18, 2021
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House creates special committee on tribal affairs

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The Alaska House of Representatives has created the Special Committee on Tribal Affairs.

That brings the number of committees in the House to 16 — 11 regular (including Committee on Committees) and 5 special committees. There are also 12 joint committees, and 18 Finance subcommittees.

But this committee is unusual in that it may be the first in Alaska history that is essentially race-centric.

The Tribal Affairs Committee has long been the goal of Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, who introduced the resolution on Monday.

Early versions of the resolution creating the special committee contained three references to tribes as sovereign states, but that language was modified in the final draft, which was passed this morning on a 37-1 vote.

“Sovereign state” is mentioned only once in the final version that passed: “Whereas Alaska Native tribal nations prioritize the health, welfare, and well-being of their members as does any other sovereign state…”

“We’ve never had a committee to deal solely with tribal issues in the Legislature,” said Rep. Edgmon. “This is not just about tribal compacting; it is about basic and critical issues like health, children’s services, law enforcement, economic development, and other needs that can be met at the village level.”

The committee has been specifically charged with advancing “strategic partnerships with tribes that seek to advance and strengthen tribal communities.”

Critics say that this drifts into the purview of the Executive Branch, and that strategic partnerships with narrow and exclusionary categories of citizens is not part of the duties of the Legislature, but an overreach into the Office of the Governor.

The committee will be chaired by Representative Tiffany Zulkosky, a Bethel Democrat. Edgmon is co-chair. Other members include Rep. John Lincoln, a Inupiaq from Kotzebue. Also on the committee are Rep. Chuck Kopp, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, and Rep. Dave Talerico. Talerico is the only member from the 15-member Republican minority.

“Collaborating with our federally-recognized tribes helps bridge historical and political divisions while elevating opportunities to shape policies and programs that incorporate local and traditional knowledge,” said Rep. Zulkosky. “I am eager for the opportunity to chair this historic committee and pursue opportunities to move Alaska forward together.”

Representatives Ben Carpenter, Sharon Jackson, George Rauscher and David Eastman cautioned against creating a committee devoted to Alaskans with inherent traits of race or tribal affiliation. But in the end, only Eastman voted against the creation of the committee.

The House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs was created by the passage of House Resolution 5 on a 37-1 vote.

Special committees are temporary, but often are renewed with each Legislative term.

ANOTHER ‘KILL BILL’ COMMITTEE

With the wide range of Alaska tribes in every part of the state, it’s likely that any bill that is filed by any legislator may be referred to this committee, where Zulkosky and Edgmon can either kill it or move it to the next committee.

Other special committees include Arctic Policy, Development & Tourism; Energy; Fisheries; and Military and Veterans’ Affairs, which is chaired by non-veteran Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and vice chaired by non-veteran Rep. Chris Tuck.

Alaska Natives / American Indians make up about 15 percent of the total population of Alaska, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Seems like a load of (expl del)…
    .
    unless the idea is to buy enough politicians to get Native-run casino gambling approved…
    .
    in which case…
    .
    Cool!

    • Wasn’t that settled by the Venetie case and the decision that there’s no such thing as Indian Country in Alaska? Otherwise, I would assume that Metlakatla would have opened a casino and been busy hustling cruise ship passengers on their Ketchikan stopover a long, long time ago.

      • Hey, that’s Sacred Stuff and you’re not supposed to ask, but it does make you wonder…

  • ”Collaborating with our federally-recognized tribes helps bridge historical and political divisions while elevating opportunities to shape policies and programs that incorporate local and traditional knowledge,” said Rep. Zulkosky. “I am eager for the opportunity to chair this historic committee and pursue opportunities to move Alaska forward together.”
    .
    Was that pre-printed on a 3×5 card? Say it out loud. Who talks like that and what exactly does that mean?

    • Means: “We know productive Alaskans are gonna get stiffed with income taxes, sales taxes, and any other tax our brethren can think of and we want our cut!”.

    • That’s precisely how I felt when I read the post about KRSA, namely, did Bill Eckhardt really state that? As with Zulkosky’s statement, it read exactly like the sort of boilerplate language you see in every press release nowadays. Dare I say that Orwell would have been proud of our media culture today?

    • She has a degree in communication. I sat with her on Bethel City council for a year and argued lots of times. She’s as big a supporter of freebies and sympathy issues as you will find.

      I want to renegotiate ansca, she wants to renegotiate ansca.

      Fine, in land claims, corporations need to relinquish one side of a river or the other. No locking up entire river systems.

  • If they want to claim Sovereign State then they should not be entitled to any money from the State of Alaska

  • This bill is racist from the get-go. No one is above the law.

  • I am proud of native son ‘s culture and history but he is just a human ….

    All those issues be address are human issues!

    Really it’s truly time …well past time to accept that we stop dividing people into classification groups as if our needs differ.

    We all need to be safe, be educated, have health care and employment…..and we all have the responsibility to work to self provide for as much of that ourselves unless we are being groomed to be live long government dependents.

    Stop trying to grow government!

  • Fifteen percent of the State of Alaska but over 50% at the governor’s mansion.

    The First Lady must be thrilled that Inupiat values will be thoroughly considered and will have a prominent place at the table during these trying times for all Alaskans!

    I’m sure nobody want to see the rural areas left behind in transportation and education least of all the Dunleavey’s from the flower of economic sustainability that is the village of Noorvik.

    Open for business!

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