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Administrative Order No. 123

I, Steve Cowper, Governor of the State of Alaska, under the authority granted by Article III of the Alaska constitution and by Alaska Statute 44.17.060, hereby establish the Policy of the State of Alaska on Existence of Tribes in Alaska.

In order to clarify the State’s position and to insure that Alaskan Natives receive the recognition to which they are entitled, the State adopts the following policy on recognition of tribes in Alaska.

Tribes exist in Alaska. The State believes that Native Alaskan tribes exist within Alaska, both on our only federally recognized reservation (the Metlakatla Indian Community on Annette Island), and in other communities. We contend that many Native Alaskan groups could qualify for tribal recognition under federal law, although some would not. The State realizes that the existing federal tribal acknowledgment process is complex and time-consuming, and in many instances is not well suited for use by Alaskan Native tribes. We think that it would be unfair and overly legalistic for the state to treat as tribes only those Native groups that have actually gone through the detailed and complicated federal recognition process. The State believes that it should treat as a tribe any Alaskan Native group that could qualify, even if it has not actually gone through the formal process. The State will treat as a tribe any Alaskan Native group that meets the common sense of the word. For example, we believe that the Native residents of a majority of communities listed as a Native village in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) should be considered a tribe. Although some Native organizations are not tribes–it would be contrary to the intent of Congress, for example, to treat ANCSA corporations as tribes–we believe Native groups should be accorded the dignity of being treated as tribes whenever possible.

The powers of Alaskan Native tribes. All tribes have some powers, whether they occupy reservations or not. The extent of the powers of off-reservation tribes is not fully defined in the law, but it includes the right to define the tribe’s own membership and to regulate its own purely internal affairs. A tribe will also have any powers expressly granted to it by the federal government, such as in the Indian Child Welfare Act, whether or not it occupies a reservation.

The State also believes that certain powers belong only to tribes that occupy reservations. For example, outside of a reservation, a tribe may not exclude non-members or regulate their affairs, or regulate resources that belong to all Alaskans, such as fish and game, or give its members immunity from state laws. When the state treats a Native group outside of a reservation as a tribe, it does not recognize that the tribe has the governmental powers of a tribe on a reservation. Whether governmental powers exist in a tribe in any particular instance is a completely separate question from tribal status.

This order takes effect on the 10th, day of September, 1990.

DATED at Juneau, Alaska, this 10th day of September, 1990.

By: S/S Steve Cowper
Steve Cowper
Governor of the State of Alaska

Probable Powers of an Off-Reservation Tribe

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