Bill signing formally recognizes Alaska Native tribes
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed House Bill 123 into law at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on Thursday.
The bill gives formal recognition to Alaska Native tribes. It’s something some say is long overdue, especially considering the federal government already recognizes 229 Tribes in the state. Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky — a Democrat representing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta — sponsored the bill.
“Despite being home to roughly half of the federally recognized tribes in the country, Alaska has had a long, hostile, and tenuous legal relationship with its tribal governments,” Zulkosky said.
Zulkosky described pushing the bill through the state legislature as a “labor of love.”
“At times it was maddening, infuriating, and at other times it was inspiring,” Zulkosky said. “It’s an important first step towards healing and reconciling our past.”
While the bill gives formal recognition to tribes, it doesn’t change their legal status or the state’s authority over them.
“House Bill 123 is nothing more or less than a statutory codification of a simple truth, that tribes exist In Alaska,” Zulkosky said.
Supporters hope that the recognition will pave the way for the state to work more collaboratively with tribal governments. Dunleavy said he believed the bill would make the state stronger.
“This allows us to go forward, work together on a whole host of issues that I think will improve the outcomes for a lot of our people,” Dunleavy said.
Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka called the bill “wonderful,” saying it shows a new level of trust and respect.
“The more that we can build trust and respect, the more we can build strong partnerships, and that’s why we are really excited about it,” Kitka said.
The bill is similar to an initiative that was intended to go before voters this fall, but will no longer be necessary now that HB 123 has been passed by the legislature.
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