Politics

Alaska tribal recognition ballot measure begins gathering signatures for 2022 vote

A group of Alaskans seeking state recognition for hundreds of Alaska Native tribes may begin gathering signatures for a 2022 ballot measure, according to a Friday order from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

The Alaska Tribal Recognition Act would require the state of Alaska to formally recognize all 229 Alaska Native tribes already recognized under federal law.

Supporters of the measure say recognition would not change tribes’ legal status or grant them additional authority, but it would encourage further work between the state and tribes on a variety of issues.

Backers said they want the state to work with tribes in government-to-government relationships.

“So far, we haven’t seen anyone saying this is a bad idea,” said ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Barbara Blake, one of three co-sponsors.

Last week, the Alaska Department of Law said the measure would have “limited” legal effect and that it is constitutional. Given that analysis, Meyer advanced the measure to the next phase of the process that could put it in front of voters next year.

Supporters need to gather 36,140 signatures from registered voters by Jan. 18, and state law requires those signatures to come from a variety of places throughout the state.

If backers gather enough signatures and the Alaska Division of Elections verifies those signatures, a vote could take place in either the August primary or the November general election, depending on the length of next year’s legislative session.

Measure supporters have not yet published the names of their principal funders. Blake said funding agreements have not yet been signed and are still in negotiations.

No other ballot measure has been approved to gather signatures ahead of the 2022 election.

Sponsored