Tribes prepare for talks with state

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Hundreds of tribal leaders from across the state will gather in Anchorage next month to talk about efforts to forge a new relationship between state government and Alaska's 227 tribes.

The Feb. 16-17 meeting will be hosted by the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, whose membership includes most of the federally recognized tribes. AITC Chairman Mike Williams said the meeting will give tribal representatives a chance to discuss Gov. Tony Knowles' proposal to initiate government-to-government relations between tribes and the state.

Those at the meeting will also ratify 12 regional tribal delegates who will negotiate with a cabinet-level team Knowles appointed Friday.

``I'm really excited and impressed with the kind of commitment the governor is making and the commitment by the tribes and the AITC as well,'' Williams said.

Knowles announced at the AITC's annual meeting in December his intention to convene a yearlong round of ``government-to-government'' talks between state officials and the tribes. The statement was received enthusiastically by tribal leaders, who are pressing in several arenas, including the courts, for authority to solve local problems.

The governor followed through on his promise Friday, releasing a list of state negotiators headed by Attorney General Bruce Botelho.

``As we discussed at the convention, this can be no ordinary negotiation,'' Knowles said in a letter to Williams. ``Too much is at stake. To forge an enduring and positive relationship between the state and tribes, we must make sure all Alaskans have an understanding and appreciation of the respective roles of tribal and state governments.''

Williams said the tribes want to make sure they understand the benefits and pitfalls of forging a new relationship with the state. To that end, they've invited people from the National Congress of American Indians and Lower 48 tribes who have experience in dealing with other states in a government-to-government relationship.

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