Tribes, state to continue talks this week in Kenai

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- A group assigned the task of negotiating an agreement creating government-to-government relations between Native tribes and the state of Alaska will be meeting here this week.

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

The panel has been asked to come up with an accord in time for it to be ratified at the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council's December meeting.

But Knowles' spokesman Claire Richardson said the group will take whatever time it needs if an agreement can't be reached by the end of the year.

''This is probably not the last meeting,'' Richardson told the Peninsula Clarion. ''But it depends on how it goes.''

The federal government formally 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 through what he calls the Millennium Accord.

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 chair of the Kenaitze tribe. ''Whereas before, they may talk to you, they may not; it depends on what division you're talking to.''

The agreement would make it easier for something such as a tribal court to be established and share jurisdiction in certain matters.

''Let's say the tribe has a court system, an ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) court. With an agreement with the state, we can work for the best placement of (Native) children,'' Showalter said. ''If the state and tribal courts work together, not separately, the child can be placed with the child's family or extended family.''

The meeting is scheduled to run Wednesday and Thursday.

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