Fears and hopes push revival of tribal governments across the
By Tom Kizzia
Daily News reporter
Several factors have pushed the revival of tribes in rural Alaska
in the past decade.
The 1971 land claims act's failure to distribute wealth to
rural villagers, coupled with its exposure of Native land to loss
through sale or bankruptcy, has led to widespread disappointment
and criticism by Natives. Many leaders of the tribal sovereignty
movement came from the generation that followed those who crafted
the Native land settlement.
As Alaska's oil-fired economy grows and tourism spreads into
once-unseen reaches of the Bush, leaders in many villages say they
fear Western influences -- not only television and alcohol, but
outsiders themselves -- will move into their communities and take
Continuing legal battles over subsistence hunting and fishing
have convinced many Natives that state government is an implacable
foe of local Native interests.
''Self-determination'' policies adopted by Congress in the
1970s steered federal funds -- nearly $500 million is spent
annually on Native programs for Alaska -- away from a central
bureaucracy toward village coffers. This money has provided a
crucial source of funds for tribal operations.
State and federal agencies have been unable to meet the
growing needs and expectations of rural Natives, in areas ranging
from law enforcement to economic development. The state has built
schools and safe water systems, but many state programs important
to the administration of daily life in rural Alaska are
Tribal government has been touted as a way to arrest the
cultural disintegration in many rural Native communities. A 1994
government panel that documented the cultural breakdown in rural
Alaska made ''full tribal status'' a key feature of its
''blueprint for change.''
A revival movement promoting stronger tribal governments in
the Lower 48 brought to Alaska a crop of talented Native rights
lawyers, who worked together to win key legal victories.