Alaska Governor Dunleavy Signs Tribal Recognition Bill, ‘First Step Towards Healing’

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Thursday, July 29, signed legislation that requires the state of Alaska to officially recognize its 229 federally recognized Native tribes.

While the bill won’t significantly change the relationship between the state and sovereign tribal governments within its borders, Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, said the measure is a “first step.” important towards healing and acknowledging our past”.

The state of Alaska has historically opposed tribal efforts to exercise sovereignty, denying their existence, Zulkosky said.

But in recent years, the state has begun to rely on tribes to provide a variety of services, including public safety and education, in rural Alaska.

“How can the state talk about expanding relations with the tribes when it has never taken the most fundamental step of recognizing them in our legal code? Zulkosky said.

Senator Gary Stevens and Representative Tiffany Zulkosky Sen. Gary Stevens and Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, sponsors of tribal education and state recognition of tribes legislation, hold up bills signed by Governor Mike Dunleavy during a July 28 ceremony at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The ceremony drew a large crowd, including Indigenous leader Emil Notti and Senator Lyman Hoffman, standing on the stage with Stevens and Zulkosky. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Dunleavy called the bill “an important milestone” and “a good day for all of us.”

After signing the recognition bill, he signed a separate law that creates a tribal-state education pact that can encourage the growth of tribal-run schools.

“This is a historic opportunity to embrace our unique Alaskan Native heritages, providing a means for local tribal governments to chart their own course in educating young Alaskans,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R- Kodiak and sponsor of Bill. “I am proud to have contributed and to be part of this historic occasion.”

Both bills were signed into law in an enthusiastic ceremony at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. Tribal chiefs, lawmakers and leaders of Alaska Native societies were on hand and welcomed the two bills, which passed the House and Senate earlier this year by wide margins.

“The cultural survival of our Indigenous peoples depends on our ability to uphold our values, practice our traditions, and maintain the freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for one another,” said Julie Kitka, President of Federation of Alaska Natives. . “We have strengthened our tribal governments and launched multiple efforts to continue our path to self-determination and self-government. Formal recognition by this legislation is a historic step for us to have a fruitful relationship with the State.

Shortly after the governor signed the Tribal Recognition Bill into law, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer issued an official statement indicating that a Tribal Recognition measure would be removed from the ballot in this fall’s general election.

The Alaska constitution allows for the nullification of a ballot measure if the legislature passes a substantially similar bill.

signature hearingThe audience at the July 28 ceremony for the signing of the Tribal Recognition Bills and the Establishment of a Tribal-State Compaction System for Education applauds Native Chief Willie Hensley. Hensley was one of the speakers at the signing ceremony, held at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Several legislators were present. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

This story originally appeared in Alaska Beacon. Republished by Native News Online under Creative Commons.

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