Tribal compact for schools signed into law, and Alaska officially recognizes 229 tribes

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By KIM JARRETT | THE CENTER SQUARE

A new law will allow up to five state-tribal compact schools in Alaska. 

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, sponsored Senate Bill 34, which authorizes the schools for five years. 

“This is a historic opportunity to embrace our unique Alaska Native heritages, providing a means for local tribal governments to determine their own path for educating young Alaskans,” Stevens said.

The bill provides no funding, according to its fiscal note. 

“Any costs associated with the negotiations and development of the report to the legislature will be absorbed within the Department of Education and Early Development’s operating budget,” the note said. 

The tribes have until December to tell the Department of Education if they want to negotiate. The DOE will then submit the plans to the Legislature. 

“We collectively want to maintain our language, culture, and traditional ways of life,” said Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives in a statement.  “Educational compacting is one way that we can improve education for our tribal children.”

Dunleavy signed the bill Thursday, the same day he signed legislation formally recognizing Alaska’s tribes. 

“Today is a historic day for Alaska and one that is long overdue,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, who sponsored House Bill 123. “While the inherent sovereignty of Alaska Tribes has been consistently affirmed in Federal policy, in rulings by the Supreme Court, and by Executive Order in 2018, the signing of House Bill 123 provides formal recognition in statute for the first time in our state’s history. I hope today is looked back on as the beginning of a new chapter of collaboration and partnership between the State and Alaska’s Tribes.”

The law is just a formal recognition of the state’s federal 229 tribes and does not change Alaska’s authority, according to a news release from Dunleavy’s office. 

“House Bill 123 codifies in law what Alaskans have long recognized: the important role that Native Tribes play in our past, present, and future,” Dunleavy said. 

A similar initiative was expected to be on the November ballot, but the bill’s passage has eliminated the need for voter approval.

“The formal recognition through this legislation is an historic step for us to have a successful relationship with the state,” Kitka said. “The cultural survival of our Indigenous people is dependent on our ability to maintain our values, practice our traditions, and maintain freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for each other.” 

Dunleavy also signed a bill that causes the State of Alaska to formally recognized the 229 tribes in Alaska.

HB 123 does not impact the current legal status of Alaska tribes or change the State’s responsibility or authority. However, it does formally recognize Alaska’s indigenous people.

“House Bill 123 codifies in law what Alaskans have long recognized: the important role that Native Tribes play in our past, present, and future,” said Dunleavy. “I congratulate all the legislators who nearly unanimously voted for this bill and our hosts today, Julie Kitka with the Alaska Federation of Natives and Emily Edenshaw with the Alaska Native Heritage Center. I also want to thank Emil Notti and Willie Hensley for attending and speaking at this historic bill signing – we can’t tell the story of Native rights and unity without Willie and Emil.”

The bill signing ceremony was held at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and hosted by Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka and ANHC Executive Director Emily Edenshaw. T

he bill’s signing was celebrated by key authors and advocates of AFN and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Emil Notti and Willie Hensley. The signing of HB 123 signifies the State’s desire to foster engagement with Alaska Natives and tribal organizations.

“Today is a historic day for Alaska and one that is long overdue,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, the bill’s sponsor. “While the inherent sovereignty of Alaska tribes has been consistently affirmed in federal policy, in rulings by the Supreme Court, and by executive order in 2018, the signing of House Bill 123 provides formal recognition in statute for the first time in our State’s history. I hope today is looked back on as the beginning of a new chapter of collaboration and partnership between the State and Alaska’s tribes.”

“The cultural survival of our Indigenous people is dependent on our ability to maintain our values, practice our traditions, and maintain freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for each other,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “We have strengthened our tribal governments and have initiated multiple efforts to continue our path to self-determination and self-governance. The formal recognition through this legislation is an historic step for us to have a successful relationship with the state.”

The bill is similar to an initiative intended to go to voters this fall; however, the bill and the initiative were substantially similar, eliminating the need for the ballot initiative.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully this recognition will fill a void of lack of data regarding these family groups. Tribes are families connected by generations of histories. These histories should not be captured, labeled and represented by east coast museums but captured in the hearts of their families. Lots of negative labeling and disrespect causes the disposession of family heritage and tangible real estate assets.

  2. Oh, great. Alaska Natives haven’t had a strong enough voice in state government up until this point. I hope they get additional funding from the state for things like education, public works, additional state trooper posts that cannot be manned. In fact I hope that block grants for things that have no future guaranteed funding can be provided and used as a wedge issue in future elections.

  3. 230 tribes, counting Alaska’s non-Native tribe whose taxes support the other 229.
    .
    Might be a good idea. Unlike Alaska’s bloated, parasitic education industry, tribal governments will have a stake in, and be accountable for, successful education of their children.
    .
    Hell, if the tribes make a success of it, maybe the victims of Anchorage’s education industry might work out a deal with the tribe(s) for similar service and oversight.
    .
    Now, think about this::
    .
    Take “The cultural survival of our Indigenous people is dependent on our ability to maintain our values, practice our traditions, and maintain freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for each other,”
    .
    Replace “Indigenous” with “Americans”, you have: “The cultural survival of our American people is dependent on our ability to maintain our values, practice our traditions, and maintain freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for each other,”
    .
    Wow! By order of the Governor, those words should be carved into every state-owned building in Alaska.
    .
    Powerful stuff, be careful trying it at home or in Anchorage Assembly meetings.

      • No. Seal oil, which doesn’t come in generic containers, so it can’t get confused with floor sealer.
        Seal oil is very nutritious, keeps you warm in the winter, and can serve in an emergency if you run out of motor oil. Ahahahahaha!

    • “230 tribes, counting Alaska’s non-Native tribe whose taxes support the other 229.”
      Here’s a list of Alaska’s Native owned corporations for the year 2019, with the gross revenues for the top ten.
      I had to edit a list. Italics don’t survive copy and past to MRAK. If I got any wrong, sue me.
      Include the hundreds of small Alaska Native owned sole owner businesses who also employ about as many non-Natives as Natives.
      Not enough of us with the required skill sets and minimum experience required for many blue or white collar jobs. Not even to get hired on by our own corporations.
      If you’re employed by any of these corporations or small businesses, you’re paying income taxes on their dime.
      Arctic Slope Regional Corporation – $3.7 billion
      Bristol Bay Native Corporation – $1.7 billion
      NANA – $1.6 billion
      Chugach Alaska Corporation – $977 million
      Chenega Corporation – $871 million
      Sealaska – $699 million
      Agognak Native Corporation – $618 million
      Calista Corporation – $573 million
      Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated – $493 million
      Ukpeagvik
      Bering Straits
      Koniag
      Doyon
      Ahtna
      Aleut
      Olgoonik
      Goldbelt
      Tyonek
      TDX (Tanadgusix)
      First National Bank
      Sitnasuak
      Choggiung
      Bethel Native Corporation
      The Kuskokwim Corporation
      Udelhoven Oilfield System Services
      Cape Fox
      Gana-Y’oo, Limited

  4. What happens to the non-Natives in a village? Where will their children go to school if these state-tribal compact schools are opened? What is the impact to student achievement? Will reading scores improve? Waiting for the impact.

    • Just send natives more money for crying out loud!! They won’t ever learn to fend for themselves they need government welfare. Year after year generation after generation.

    • why can’t Indians open their own schools? Without federal approval… what’s stopping them? God knows they get enough welfare money from the government to do so.

  5. Very existential per se. Pleasantly, Dutch Harbor is actually doing a superior job of educating. Is the harmful Anchorage School District too proud to speak to Dutch Harbor? Probably.

  6. So there will be 5 state-tribal compact schools. Maybe any whites would also be allowed to go there and learn about native culture and values, which pretty well translate into good old-time values; respect for your elders, respect for traditions, and freedom to live your life with respect for each other; quite a change from the Biden-ordered gender-change programs that public schools enact without parental consent and the teaching of hate through the Critical Race Theory programs now festering public school systems nation-wide. Who knows – maybe this could save public education! And has anyone looked at the rising of mass shootings and the teaching of negativity in our public schools? Is there a connection? So many ways this state-tribal compact can help if handled correctly. Notice the bill had both Republican (Sen. Gary Stevens) and Democrat (Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky) sponsors. Old time Republicans and Democrats fought like cats and dogs during the elections but then got down to work and cooperated where they could. Modern times could use some of that.

      • Not that many Natives are actually red, nor very many non-natives that are actually white.
        I think it started with the dime western paperbacks, and eventually became the common vernacular.
        Only thing i ever heard called “reds” was some kind of street drugs.

  7. Sigh. When we had a good governor…. Wally Hickel used to say, “One state, one people.”

    Kitka says she wants a traditional way of life? What does that mean? These cultures- traditionally- could fairly be described as stone age. No western medicine, no modern… anything. Speaking (only) an exotic language means your world will be isolated and impoverished.

    Will these tribes tax themselves? Or will they remain mostly dependent on welfare? What is the plan?

  8. For Anchorage I re ommend at least three separate svhool disyricts. More opportunity for community input and influence. Better chance for kids tk flourish. Debulk the district for starters.

  9. Can they open one in ANC? Might be a big improvement.
    As parents we tried to get 1 … that’s right just 1, Native language elective at an ANC High School.
    Nothing. How insulting. We worked on this for over 2 years.
    There is Russian immersion … Spanish immersion … German immersion … Japanese immersion
    Soon to be French immersion programs in ANC; these are intense long term immersion programs.
    Add to this all the regular foreign lang courses offered in our high schools.
    We could not get 1 course in Yupik at say, Betty Davis High, for kids who want to pursue that as an elective
    ASD built the German language program an entire, Brand New, school for Pete’s sake.

    Many colleges would love to see Native lang experience on kids applications, so even non-Natives would be interested, as it makes their app stand out a bit.
    Why this roadblock ….AK NEA (or what ever they call themselves)… and their lock on teacher credentials, benefits & wages … bureaucrats!

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