Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120
04/22/2021 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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|Confirmation Hearing|| Department of Public Safety, Commissioner|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 123-STATE RECOGNITION OF TRIBES 4:12:10 PM CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 123, "An Act providing for state recognition of federally recognized tribes; and providing for an effective date." 4:12:48 PM CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opened public testimony. 4:13:12 PM JOEL JACKSON, President, Organized Village of Kake, stated his support for HB 123. He asserted that Tribes had not been recognized by the State of Alaska. He opined that the state only recognized Tribes when it wanted to work with them; further, he said the state had asked Tribes to relinquish part of their sovereignty. He believed that was unacceptable. He reported that there were 229 Tribes in Alaska that provided services to all its Tribal citizens using millions of dollars from the federal government. Those services would otherwise be paid for by the state, he pointed out. He believed it was time for the state to recognize and work with Tribes without asking them to relinquish any sovereignty. 4:15:17 PM DELORES LARSON, United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), expressed support for HB 123, as it would take an overdue step towards the state's formal recognition of Alaska's Tribal nation. She believed that the Tribe's inherent sovereignty should be recognized by the state because it would allow both governments to work together to better serve its shared citizens. She considered the many challenges in public safety, healthcare, education, and housing, which would be better addressed through cooperative work between governments, she said. She maintained that a continued and intentional effort not to formally recognize the 229 federally recognized Tribal governments would be a tremendous disservice to all citizens of Alaska. She urged the committee to support HB 123. 4:17:50 PM COURTENAY CARTY, Tribal Administrator, Curyung Tribal Council, relayed that Curyung Tribal Council was the federally recognized Tribe of Dillingham and the largest Tribe in Bristol Bay. The majority of its Tribal government services were provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) compact with the Bristol Bay Native Association. Additionally, she reported that the Curyung Tribal Council regularly worked with the state and the city of Dillingham on the justice system, education, transportation, infrastructure, and natural resource management. Further, the council operated an active Tribal court to protect its children. She continued to explain that they partnered with their local school district to incorporate cultural components into the classrooms. This year alone, $311,000 was provided to GCSD for educational needs related to COVID-19. She conveyed that the council upheld its traditional role in the management of land, water, fish, and wildlife by working with ADF&G and the Department of Natural Resources to actively participate in research and the regulatory processes that governed natural resources. She concluded that all Tribes deserved to be heard and recognized as equal governments by the state. She expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to provide input and said she was grateful that HB 123 was being heard in committee. 4:22:03 PM CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS closed public testimony. 4:22:23 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR thanked the testifiers for sharing in the significance of this legislation. She recalled her experience on the House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs (HTRB) and believed that although recognition existed federally, there was pain associated with this ongoing issue that the state had not addressed. She said she was honored to have the opportunity to right that wrong. REPRESENTATIVE VANCE said her experience on HTRB was educational, as there were less than 3 percent of Alaska Natives living in her district. She explained that she gained a broader understanding of the need for recognition and the tension that existed between the state and Tribal governments. She believed that the proposed legislation would be a brave step; however, she admitted that it was still uncomfortable for her. She recounted how a Tribal member helped her understand that Tribes were inherently sovereign; further, she said [formal recognition] would only improve the existing relationship between the state and Tribal governments. She expressed her hope that the proposed legislation would provide an opportunity to move forward and "lay aside" the pain from the past. In closing, she expressed her support for the passage of HB 123. REPRESENTATIVE STORY thanked the bill sponsor for bringing forward a bill that would formally recognize Tribal sovereignty. She said she had the privilege of raising her family on ?ak'w Kw?an land and believed that sovereign recognition would be a step in the long journey of healing and restoration. She expressed her hoped that the bill would be supported. CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS stated his appreciation for the work by the bill sponsor and the previous legislature on this issue, as it was long overdue. He believed it was in incredibly important statement of respect and partnership by the State of Alaska to the Tribes. He shared a personal anecdote about the government- to-government relationship in the community of Sitka. 4:27:55 PM REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN moved to report HB 123 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. Without objection, HB 123 was moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.