Just recently, three Lower 48 tribes (Tulalip, Chehalis, and Maliseet) and three Alaska Tribes (Akiak, Mt. Village, and St. Paul) filed a legal complaint disputing ANC inclusion in the Tribal Set Aside funding. Some have gone as far as to demand the resignation of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Katuk Sweeney for her role in supporting the CARES Act.
This action by a handful of misguided tribes is disheartening, and only serves to fracture what should be a united common purpose: To prevent COVID-19 from having a disproportionate impact on our vulnerable indigenous communities and families. Further, this legal complaint may delay the process of allocating and distributing funds, which will only serve to harm our communities.
The CARES Act is unambiguous: Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native regional corporations, and Alaska Native village corporations are “tribes” under the law. Chugach simply asks that the CARES Act be applied as it was written and mandated by Congress.
“We believe that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ which is why Chugach supports relief funding for all vulnerable populations and indigenous communities across the nation,” said Chairman of the Board and Interim President and CEO Sheri Buretta. “We share a common goal with the Lower 48 tribes to ensure our communities overcome and continue to thrive through adversity, and we will continue to advocate on their behalf. We applaud Congress and Secretary Sweeney for doing the right thing by acting quickly to provide critical aid during this crisis.”
Chugach is partnering with its regional communities as they navigate the effects of COVID-19. Prior to introduction of the CARES Act, Chugach issued early shareholder and Elder dividends, and authorized establishment of a Community and Tribal Support Fund to provide financial support to the tribes and communities in the Chugach region (see Chairman’s Letter here).
The corporation also established a collaborative Chugach Regional Resource Group, comprised of leaders from village and tribal organizations within the Chugach Region. This group meets weekly and offers a forum to provide aid and best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect the health and economic well-being of people who live in the Chugach communities, and identify financial and other resources available.
As with all CARES Act funding recipients, Chugach and its regional tribes and village corporations are subject to an application review and approval process. We are working closely with fellow Alaska Native organizations and communities to strategize how the CARES Act funding will best serve our organizations, should they receive funding.
About the CARES Act:
The CARES Act clearly defines Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native regional corporations, and Alaska Native village corporations as “tribes.” Here is why:
- The legal issue is how is the term “tribal governments” is defined. Section 601(g) outlining “DEFINITIONS” provides the answer.
- Paragraph (1) provides that: “The term ‘Indian Tribe’ has the meaning given that term in section 4(e) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 5304(e)).”
- The ISDEAA definition states that “Indian tribe” means “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) [43 U.S.C. 1601 et. seq.], which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”
- The term “Tribal governments” in the CARES Act means “the recognized governing body of an Indian Tribe.” Therefore, “Tribal governments” are the governing body of “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.”
About Chugach Alaska Corporation:
Established in 1972 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Chugach Alaska Corporation exists to serve the interests of the Alaska Native people of the Chugach region with a focus on profitability, celebration of our heritage and ownership of our lands. Through responsible management of our lands, businesses and assets, we provide meaningful opportunities and benefits to our community of 2,600 shareholders. Chugach fulfills its mission through a range of investments and operating businesses that provide government, facilities and energy services.