JUNEAU – On a unanimous vote, legislation by Rep. Zulkosky codifying federal recognition of Alaska’s Tribes in State law for the first time passed the Senate this morning.
Despite the shared values between Tribes and the State that seek to ensure vibrant and healthy communities, Alaska obtained statehood during an era of federal Indian policy where the federal government sought to terminate its trust relationship with Tribes, and while the federal government ultimately embraced needed change, by passing the Self Determination and Education Assistance Act in 1975, Alaska’s statutory policy towards Tribes is still a relic of the past.
House Bill 123 does not change the State’s relationship with Tribes but simply affirms their status, enumerated by the Federal government.
“Tribes have been recognized by the federal government, and by the Executive and Judicial branches of Alaska’s government, but we, the Legislature, have not held up our end of the bargain and officially acknowledged Tribes in state law,” said Representative Tiffany Zulkosky (D Bethel). “Regardless of this, the State looks to our Tribal partners to leverage significant federal resources and provide a litany of essential services to Alaskans living in remote parts of the State.
HB 123 opens the door for us to simply affirm in Alaska’s legal code, the special and unique relationship that exists between Tribes and the federal government.”
“Tribes play a very important role in the identity of the State of Alaska, and it is critical that the State finally formally recognize that,” said Senator Lyman Hoffman (D – Bethel).
Upon concurrence by the House, HB 123 heads to the Governor for signature.