Tribes, state work toward agreement

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2000

KENAI - A group negotiating an agreement creating government-to-government relations between Native tribes and the state of Alaska will meet in Kenai this week.

This will be the third such meeting of the State-Tribal Relations Team, created by Gov. Tony Knowles in January.

The panel has been asked to come up with an accord to be ratified at the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council's December meeting. But Knowles' spokeswoman Claire Richardson said the group will take whatever time it needs. "This is probably not the last meeting," Richardson said.

The federal government recognized Alaska tribal governments in 1993 with the issuance of a new tribal entities list from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Congress approved the list in 1994.

The State-Tribal Relations Team is the governor's effort to formally recognize tribal governments on a state level. State negotiators are led by Attorney General Bruce Botelho and include several other members from Knowles' cabinet. The tribal negotiating team is made up of 46 Natives from tribes across the state. The tribes are led by Joe Williams II, from Saxman, who serves as co-chairman of the team with Botelho.

The accord would allow tribes to negotiate and work with different state agencies as independent governments.

Backers of the move have said it would streamline many aspects of dealing with the state and it would give Natives more control of village affairs.

"Say, fish and wildlife or highway or justice, they will speak with tribes on a definite government-to-government relationship," said James Showalter, vice chairman of the Kenaitze tribe. "Whereas before, they may talk to you, they may not; it depends on what division you're talking to."

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