AFN resolutions focus on tribal sovereignty

Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Delegates to the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention voted Saturday to approve several resolutions to protect tribal sovereignty of Alaska Natives.

One of the resolutions getting the most attention directs delegates to implement the ''Native Rights Protection Plan.'' The resolution says AFN and its member organizations will try to unify the Native community to:

--achieve maximum self-determination for Alaska Natives.

--respond effectively to state and Congressional threats to undermine and redefine Alaska Native policy.

--and solve the impasse over Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights.

A plan is needed because Alaska tribal recognition and rights are being attacked on both state and federal levels, according to the resolution.

It says actions by the Justice Department if adopted by the Bush administration and the courts could jeopardize programs benefiting the social, economic and physical well-being of over 100,000 Alaska Natives.

Two Native corporations pledged $25,000 each to help implement the resolution.

The resolution was one of several voted on by convention delegates that addressed the issue of tribal sovereignty.

The annual convention, which ended Saturday, brought together representatives from more than 200 Alaska tribes, as well as regional corporations and nonprofit groups.

Other resolutions concerning tribal sovereignty ask the Denali Commission to respect contracts negotiated by tribes; oppose efforts by the state to revoke the sovereign status of 229 tribes to restructure them into 13 regional tribal organizations; and oppose political efforts to terminate the federally-recognized tribal status of Native villages.

On Friday, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, addressed the convention and told delegates that Alaska tribes should consider consolidating into regions. Stevens said federal funds are shrinking and current funding formulas aren't working.

AFN president Julie Kitka encouraged delegates to resist efforts to change their political status without their consent.

The most hotly-debated resolution was submitted by the Shaktoolik Native Corp. and makes importing or attempting to import alcohol into local option communities a felony. Any alcohol-related deaths as a result of bootlegging would be determined to be involuntary manslaughter.

While some delegates voiced total support for the resolution, others said focusing on punishment and incarceration compounds the alcohol problem in the villages. They advocated wellness programs instead.

''If it becomes a felony, then that's just another obstacle we have to deal with,'' one delegate said.

Other resolutions passed by delegates without discussion included turning over the problem of wolf predation to the Alaska Department of Public Safety and opposing any changes to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

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