Philip Baker-Shenk is a Partner in the Washington D.C. office
The newly appointed Alaska Attorney General, Jahna Lindemuth, announced on Monday that the State of Alaska will drop its litigation appeal that challenged the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior permitting the Bureau of Indian Affairs to process applications from Indian tribes in Alaska, like tribes elsewhere, in order to have Interior hold their land in trust for them and subject to limited tribal jurisdiction mostly concurrent with that of the State.
Indian tribes in Alaska have long sought this equal protection under the law, but because of longstanding intransigence within the Interior Department and the State of Alaska, Indian tribes have been subjected to second-class treatment compared to tribes elsewhere. AG Lindemuth's decision, backed by Governor Walker, ends what has been a costly and exhausting 20 years of litigation and controversy. In addition to the wasteful expense of the litigation over two decades, the lengthy dispute has resulted in tribes and their neighbors in Alaska being bypassed by millions of dollars in federal assistance, and being caused to suffer from an unworkable law enforcement framework and an incomplete civil regulatory structure that has trapped many tribal communities in poverty.
The decision of the Walker Administration opens new doors for valuable economic development and creative collaboration between Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corporations in Alaska. Together they can write a new chapter for Alaska.
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