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February News Bulletin
Dearest Friends,

January was dramatic.

As we began to surmise this month’s events, the sheer number of big-news items began to feel as overwrought as a superhero movie with an ensemble cast. Our final impression is one of explosive energy—a frenetic sweep towards change, be it creative or destructive.

We’ll start small. Specifically, small businesses. A life preserver was tossed to the nation’s small businesses in early January as applications for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was reopened and reportedly issued over 60,000 loans within its first week. The small business bug is active in Alaska too—our February events calendar is packed with workshops and webinars designed to educate and empower small business owners, including the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) release of its entire course catalog. Our state’s economy is closely tied to the success of our local enterprises—we urge our members to take note of BuyAlaska’s push to consolidate Alaska’s small businesses into a collaborative, interlinked network. On that note, we are also excited to welcome our newest ANVCA sponsor, Stantec, and highlight their work with small and disadvantaged businesses.

Alaska made national headlines thanks to the efforts of our healthcare workers, who have not only achieved leading figures for COVID-19 vaccine distribution but did so from snow machines zooming across the arctic tundra. Priority vaccines were administered to our Elders, many of whom are the final bearers of endangered languages. Alongside this story of preserving human life, major advancements were also achieved for land preservation. Sealaska announced its intention to soon depart from the logging industry, Chugach purchased a 150-acre plot of historic lands at Pt. Martin for cultural use, and the Prince of Wales Landscape Restoration Project secured a federal grant to restore the habitats of local wildlife.

With pride, we report on our community’s cultural and legal triumphs. The U.S. Supreme Court has announced its decision to hear our appeal for federal COVID-19 relief funding, following the D.C. district court’s prior decision to deny our funding based on their disturbing interpretation of ANC identity. As before, we vow to fight for our community with everything we have.

We are also happy to report that land allotments for Native veterans will open on February 18, and that Tlingit artist Michaela Goade’s artwork of civil rights hero Elizabeth Peratrovich captured international attention on one of the world’s biggest canvases—the Google Doodle.

We end on a wide-angle—national politics and the transition to a new executive administration. Some of the decisions made by the Biden-Harris administration are welcome—we are always happy to hear news of Native representation in our federal government—but other reports must earn our caution. The administration’s decision to freeze wide tracts of the Department of the Interior’s functional ability over a 60-day review period is, in a word, alarming. It significantly impacts the operations of many ANC and Village corporations, as well as our state’s predominant industry during a time when budgets are stretched thin.

To reiterate our introduction: January was dramatic. Even so, we are hopeful. Throughout January, national news seemed consumed by reports of social unrest and politically-charged violence. The destructive hatred broadcast from our nation’s capital was terrible to watch—but it underscored something important; a sense that this is not who we are. Of course, we are imperfect—but we are creative. We are builders. We learn. We grow.

I am proud to know that throughout the chaos of January, the headlines from our community were the words of progress.

Tsin'aen (Chin'an/Thank You),

Hallie Bissett
ANVCA Executive Director
New Sponsor Highlight: Stantec
Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why Stantec always designs with community in mind. Stantec successfully works with Indigenous groups through formal business partnerships, pursues Alaska Native employment throughout major projects, and fosters connections to Indigenous Peoples in their technical work. 

Their work is personal. Stantec cares about the communities they serve—because they are their communities too. This familiarity allows Stantec to assess what’s needed, what their expertise can provide, appreciate nuances, envision new possibilities, and to unite diverse perspectives in pursuit of shared success.

As a team of designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers all innovating together, Stantec's work sits at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe. With three Alaska office locations, Stantec's full force includes more than 22,000 employees working in over 350 locations across six continents. Their prolific presence is the result of localized strength, knowledge, and relationships, coupled with world-class expertise. Thanks to this balanced approach, Stantec's methodology is highly adaptable to local needs, and they're able to develop more creative, personalized solutions for their clients.

Although a global organization, Stantec recognizes the diversity and creativity that comes from small businesses. Keeping in alignment with the company's local-first approach, the mission of their Federal Small & Disadvantaged Business Program is to develop and sustain long-term relationships with emerging and existing business partners to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships and to execute quality projects together.

Please join us in warmly welcoming Stantec to the ANVCA network. Their Alaska Native Program Manager, Adam Leggett, is Dena’ina Athabascan from the Native Village of Eklutna and is based out of Stantec's Anchorage office. Mr. Leggett provides knowledge and community connections to facilitate Stantec's work with Alaska Native people and organizations. As a policy, any work with Alaska Native people will commence from a position of respect for the values, world views, learning preferences, community structures, and governance models of these organizations and communities.
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
FEBRUARY, MARCH: Alaska's Small Business Development Center releases all virtual workshops/trainings for free. This is an extensive catalog of resources and trainings from a diverse array of accreddited instructors. content is free through March 31, 2021. This is an excellent opportunity for small business owners! See the course catalog here.

FEBRUARY 5-6: Class In Session for Alaska's Future...Exploring the Realities. Led by Professor William Hensley, a founder of and former President of NANA, this course will focus on how major historical eras shaped Alaska, and how our understanding of historic context provides a backdrop for charting future policies and actions. This course is offered through UAA's College of Business and Public policy. More information and registration available: (907) 786-4171.

FEBRUARY 10: Webinar: How to Write a Capability Statement. (10:00 a.m.) Offered through the Alaska Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC). Register here.

FEBRUARY 10: Webinar: Introduction to Government Contracting & Luncheon. (12:00 p.m.) Offered through the Alaska PTAC. Register here.

FEBRUARY 10, 17, 24: Weekly Briefing for Small Businesses About Coronavirus Opportunities. This briefing is hosted by the Small Business Administration, Alaska District. Learn more here.

FEBRUARY 11: Deadline for Indian Energy FOA Application. Last March, the U.S. Department of Energy announced up to $15 million in new funding to deploy energy technology on tribal lands. This funding will support ANCs and Village Corporations. The intended results of the projects selected under this FOA are to stabilize or reduce energy costs and increase energy security and resiliency for tribes and tribal members. Learn more here.

FEBRUARY 15-19: Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA ) Annual Convention & Trade Show. ANVCA joins cohort of panelists to discuss issues surrounding cargo and passenger air service to rural Alaska's communities. ANVCA will be speaking as part of a moderated panel from 2:15-3:00 p.m. on February 16, 2021. The full convention's schedule may be found here.

FEBRUARY 17: Webinar: Federal Contracting Series: Limitations on Subcontracting. (12:30 p.m.) Offered through the Alaska PTAC. Register here.

FEBRUARY 18: Early Honors Program Virtual Open House (5:30 – 7 p.m.) Alaska Pacific University offers a unique program for high school students in Anchorage. As part of Early Honors, students can earn credits toward both high school graduation and an eventual college degree. Tailored to juniors and seniors in high school, Early Honors students can earn up to 36 college credits a year and learn how to navigate university life. At our open house, you’ll learn more about the program and ask questions of current Early Honors students and faculty. Register here.

FEBRUARY 18: Veteran Land Allotments for Natives Opens at 8 a.m. Eligible Native Veterans will be able to select lands as shown on the Available Lands Map, located here.

FEBRUARY 18: Workshop: Taxes for Small Businesses (12:30 p.m.) Training is run by a local CPA firm, and hosted through Alaska's Small Business Administration office. More information here.

FEBRUARY 23-26: ANILCA Training (8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.) This online course will cover a summary of state history, the context of ANILCA's passage, and overview of ANILCA's provisions (including traditional lifestyle practices, subsistence on federal lands, wilderness management), and ANILCA's implementation. Register here.

FEBRUARY 25: Webinar: Managing Contract Changes. (10:30 a.m.) Offered through the Alaska PTAC. Register here.

FEBRUARY 26: Webinar: Russian Oil in the Far North. (12:00 p.m.) Hosted by Alaska World Affairs. Learn more and register here.

MARCH 25: Alaska Pacific University Graduate Programs Virtual Open House. Alaska Pacific University is hosting a virtual open house highlighting its graduate programs. The open house will cover financial aid, scholarships, and the admissions process, and participants will hear directly from faculty about the opportunities available in our programs. Register here.
Job Openings
Alaska Pacific University | Chief Advancement Officer: This position advises the President on all matters pertaining to the University’s fundraising strategy and the management of the Advancement operations, including Alumni Relations. This position is responsible for daily oversight and administration of fundraising including: major, principal, and planned gifts; endowments; prospect research; foundation, corporate and donor relations; and specific campaign efforts. The CAO manages a team of development and support staff to achieve fundraising goals. Learn more.
Alaska Pacific University | Compliance/Risk Officer: This position provides leadership, direction, and integration of compliance and risk assessment/reduction activities. Responsibilities include developing training programs, managing emergency and risk management protocols, and reviewing policies and contracts to meet university needs and state and federal regulations. Risk assessment encompasses a broad perspective across campus that involves the safety of students, employees and visitors. Learn more.

Alaska Pacific University | Director of Information Technology: This position provides vision and leadership for the development and maintenance of innovative technology solutions that support student engagement, transform the learning environment, optimize resources, minimize risk, provide data for informed business decisions, and monitor systems that optimize business process. Learn more.

Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA is currently hiring for multiple science and engineering positions, including paying jobs for students. Read more here.

Office of Senator Sullivan | Legislative Assistant: The Legislative Assistant will be responsible for managing a legislative portfolio, approving and supervising constituent correspondence, assisting with the development of policy positions and legislative initiatives, and working with federal agencies to achieve positive policy outcomes. Minimum requirements include bachelor's degrees, strong organizational and communication skills, and a readiness to work out of Washington D.C. Interested applicants are to email their resume and cover letter to with "Legislative Assistant Opening" in the subject line.

ACLU Alaska | Advocacy Manager: The Advocacy Manager's responsibilities include development of public education campaign materials, staff and volunteer training, collaboration with national councils to organize and distribute outreach campaign materials, and fostering partnerships with member organizations joined to ACLU's various coalitions. Minimum requirements include several years in community outreach or social justice advocacy work, high interpersonal skills, leadership ability, and drive. Read more here.

The Nature Conservancy (IPLC) | Community-Led Finance Director: The successful candidate will provide sophisticated business, financial and economic expertise to address conservation challenges for Indigenous and community-led programs to further the work of The Nature Conservancy and its Indigenous and community partners by developing long-term financing solutions and strategies in support of TNC’s “Strong Voices Active Choices” framework. We are looking for a person who thrives in a dynamic environment, is an authentic communicator, is comfortable with ambiguity, builds relationships, works well within multicultural and multinational teams, and demonstrates commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. Learn more here.

The Nature Conservancy (IPLC) | Research Analyst: The Research Analyst will provide technical expertise, research, analysis, and logistical support to project leads and Directors on the Global IPLC team. This includes summarizing the latest relevant research on social aspects of community-based conservation through desk review and interviews with internal and/or external experts to ensure global and field staff have strong evidence on which to base decisions. Learn more here.
The mural above is freshly installed in the ANVCA office, brightening our space with a contemporary take on Native symbols in art. Artist Holly Nordlum at Naniq Designs did the design and install
January: Political News
JANUARY 8: The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear the on-going court case regarding ANCs right to receive CARES Act funding. ANVCA and ARA greeted this news with joy, releasing a brief statement reiterating our core argument that ANCs should not be punished for their unique structures and systems. Read more here

JANUARY 12: The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act makes various updates to the preexisting Paycheck Protection Program, and opens a new window for first/second loan applications to close on March 31, 2021. Read more here.

JANUARY 14: In a groundbreaking milestone for Native law, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously voted to formalize into code government-to-government relations between the Municipality of Anchorage and the Native Village of Eklutna. Once changes are officially instituted in Municipal code, Alaska's most populous city will officially recognize the sovereignty of the state's 229 federally recognized tribes. As a recognized sovereign government, Eklutna becomes eligible to receive and distribute state and federal funds for the betterment of social services. Read more about this story here.

JANUARY 14: The U.S. Census Bureau announces that 2020 census redistricting geographic support products will be available for all U.S. states, with the data release beginning on January 19 and concluding no later than February 28. This release includes information such as census tracts, voting districts, and more. Read more here.

JANUARY 15: The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Program has proposed changes to its regulations which would reclassify certain landowners as ineligible for their programs. If proposed changes are passed, many ANCs and shareholders will become unable to access federal lands and funding made readily available for other land owners. Read more here.

JANUARY 19: The Small Business Administration (SBA) announces that is has approved 60,000 new loans (submitted by nearly 3,000 lenders) through its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) within one week of the program's reopening. The SBA has indicated that this newest application period will remain open through March 31, 2021 or until allocated federal funds are exhausted. Read more here.

JANUARY 19: The Alaska Supreme Court reverses an earlier decision reached by the Alaska Superior Court regarding votes cast by proxy and corporate governance. Austin Ahmasuk, a shareholder of Sitnasuak Native Corporation (SNC), submitted an op-ed arguing that the practice disproportionately favored the interests of the proxy holder. The Alaska Division of Banking (a branch within the State's DCCED branch), argued that Mr. Ahmasuk's op-ed was incorrect and categorically solicitous. The Alaska Superior Court agreed with the Division of Banking. The Alaska Supreme Court has now reversed this earlier decision, finding that Mr. Ahmasuk's op-ed did not solicit votes for an issue up for vote, and that his public opinion regarding proxy voting as a process was within his rights as a private citizen exercising his right to free speech. The Court declined to provide a bright-line test for determining what qualifies as a proxy solicitation, but remarked that "context is key," and offered several practical guidelines for future evaluations. Read more here. A template for companies navigating corporate relations with their shareholders can be seen here. Thanks to Eyak Corp. for sharing a best practice!

JANUARY 20: The Biden-Harris administration is publicly inaugurated, and the U.S. Democratic Party assumes majority presence over the House of Representatives and Senate.

JANUARY 20: The Biden-Harris administration release their incoming staff list for the Department of the Interior's leadership team. Citing a commitment to diversity and representative leadership, over 80 percent of team identify as people of color, women, or LGBTQ+. Multiple members of the team are personally and professionally affiliated with Native Law, including Jennifer Van der Heide (Chief of Staff), Robert Anderson (Principal Deputy Solicitor), and Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes (Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs). Read more here.

JANUARY 20: The Department of the Interior (DOI) issues an immediate 60-day suspension of all DOI offices right to delegate authority. Specific capabilities impacted include the authority to approve leases, amendments (and/or extensions), easements, applications for permits to drill, and others. This 60-day suspension has been attributed to the new administration's desire to review operations. President Biden's well-documented intention to fight climate change has left many wondering how Alaska's energy-dependant economy will be effected. Read more here.

JANUARY 24: Juneau lawmaker Mike Shower introduces a bill designed to limit voting-by-mail, arguing that such measures are necessary for safeguarding election security. Opponents have criticized the bill, particularly a section which they say may ban municipalities from having vote-by-mail elections. Community leaders in rural Alaska have expressed concern that if passed, the bill will prohibit rural residents from casting their votes. If passed, the bill will go into effect in 2022. Read more here.
Alaska Native Corporations were mandated by Congress through the passage of #ANCSA to care for the social, cultural, and economic well-being of their Alaska Native people and communities in perpetuity. Learn about the history of #ANCSA:
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Have you contributed to the legal fees fund? ANVCA is still gathering funds from our members to help pay for the Supreme Court Case. If you have not yet contributed, please email Hallie Bissett at to pledge your contribution for this effort and we will send you an invoice. 100 percent of these funds go toward legal fees
January: Our Community in Review
DECEMBER 30: Tlingit artist Michaela Goade's artwork of Elizabeth Peratrovich is shared on one of the world's biggest canvases—the Google Doodle (i.e., the daily artwork featured on the Google homepage). Ms. Peratrovich, a Tlingit woman, lobbied for the equal and fair treatment of Natives during the 1940s and is now celebrated as a Civil Rights hero. She famously reprimanded the Alaska Senate with the remark, "I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights." Ms. Goade shared that community support and reception to her artwork has been celebratory. Read more here.

JANUARY 1: Native American Cases To Watch In 2021 - The federal government is asking the Supreme Court to find Alaska Native corporations eligible for coronavirus relief. The D.C. Circuit is set to rule on whether the Indian Health Service must pay contract support costs to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on income from insurers such as Medicare and Medicaid. The Cherokee Nation is engaged in a discovery battle with pharmacies and drug distributors in the tribe's bellwether opioid suit remanded from the MDL to Oklahoma federal court. Many tribes have joined the ongoing MDL accusing Juul and Altria of unleashing a youth vaping epidemic. The First Circuit may be leaning toward the Penobscot Nation in its claim to the waters of its namesake river in Maine. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is challenging a U.S. Department of the Interior ruling handing rights over a stretch of the Missouri River riverbed to North Dakota. And the en banc Fifth Circuit has spent nearly a year weighing the Indian Child Welfare Act's constitutionality. Read more at Law360

JANUARY 6: DC Circ. Says Feds Likely Shorted Virus Funds For Tribes The D.C. Circuit on Tuesday revived the Shawnee Tribe's bid to increase its share of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds, saying the U.S. Department of the Treasury likely underpaid the Shawnee and some other tribes by basing funding on population data that fell far short of their true membership numbers. In its opinion, the three-judge panel reversed a D.C. district court's September dismissal of the suit, saying the judge wrongly found that Treasury's allocation of the funding for tribal governments in Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act wasn't reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act. While the department had argued it had the latitude to distribute the $8 billion in funds as it saw fit, the CARES Act requires Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to make sure payments to tribes were based on their "increased expenditures" due to the pandemic, the panel said. And the department's reliance on Indian Housing Block Grant population data — which showed the Shawnee Tribe as having zero members, rather than the 3,021 members the tribe reported to the Treasury — for part of the funding meant the Oklahoma-based tribe's minimal award of $100,000 may have been much less than its pandemic-related spending, according to the opinion authored by Circuit Judge David S. Tatel. While the panel didn't rule on the merits of the case, it reversed the lower court's denial of a preliminary injunction to the Shawnee Tribe and ordered it to issue one, based on the tribe's likelihood of winning on its claim that the government's use of the IHBG population data is, "at least with respect to some tribes, an unsuitable proxy." Read more at Law360

JANUARY 11: Supreme Court Will Review Alaska Native Pandemic Funding Cases -The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases over whether certain Alaskan indigenous groups are entitled to a cut of the billions of dollars Congress provided for tribal governments during the pandemic. The cases center on whether Alaska Native Corporations—state-chartered corporations that Congress created in order to get money and land to Alaska Natives—qualify for a portion of the billions reserved for tribal governments to spend on pandemic-related expenses under Title V of the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit previously held that Alaska Native Corporations weren’t eligible for the CARES Act funding, reversing a lower court ruling. The court announced its decision to hear the cases together in an order list issued Friday. Attorneys involved in the cases include Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general and one of the most seasoned Supreme Court litigators in the U.S. Clement, who is representing the Alaska Native Village Corp. Association Inc., is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Read more at Bloomberg Law

JANUARY 11: US Supreme Court Takes Up More Than a Dozen New Cases
Two related cases over whether the government was wrong to deny federal Covid-19 relief funds to Alaska Native corporations made it onto the docket Friday. In September, a panel for the D.C. Circuit found that Alaska Native corporations are not eligible to receive any of the $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding set aside for tribes under the CARES Act. The ruling came after three separate tribes filed lawsuits contending that ANCs should not receive the aid allocated to recognized tribes because they are corporations. The D.C. Circuit ruled that an Alaska Native corporation cannot qualify as an Indian tribe under the federal Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act unless “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” So far, none have been recognized as such by Congress. The Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, which brought the underlying case against Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, says that Congress did not intend to leave Alaska Native corporations out of its language when drafting the recognition rules. Still, the lower circuit courts argued it did leave them out. Read more at Courthouse News Service

JANUARY 11: National Public Radio (NPR) reports on the unique COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts ramping up across Alaska's rural communities, as healthcare workers voyage across frigid tundra to reach house-bound patients. The state's challenging delivery requirements appear to provoke an unexpectedly determined response from Alaska's healthcare workers, whose efforts have now pulled Alaska into third place for per capita vaccine distribution. Read more here.

JANUARY 11: Sealaska signals its intention to step away from logging in 2021. As a region blessed with dense forests, lumbar provided a dependable revenue stream in earlier years. Sealaska's leadership has described their decision to transition away from logging as a move motivated by traditional values and lands preservation. Several of the company's current operations are designed to be environmentally and economically sustainable. Read more here.

JANUARY 12: SCOTUS To Hear Case Against Secretary Mnuchin For Giving Coronavirus Funds to Corporations Instead of Tribal Governments - The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari Friday in two cases challenging the Trump administration’s distribution of $8 billion dollars of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. The consolidated cases are Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. The aid was to be given to “tribal governments” and was specifically earmarked for easing the monetary burdens of the COVID-19 fallout. A group of tribal governments alleged in a federal lawsuit that the aid meant for them actually went to more than 230 Alaska Native for-profit corporations (ANCs). Congress statutorily created a different relationship with Alaska Natives from what it has with Native Americans in the lower 48 states. Instead of using reservations, “regional corporations” and “village corporations” were created in Alaska. These ANCs are private corporations with shareholders that include both Indians and non-Indians. When Congress authorized the treasury secretary to hand out CARES Act funding, it was to “Indian tribes as defined in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.” That definition was as “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation . . . which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” The ANCSA Regional Association and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association issued a statement saying that they, “welcome the Supreme Court’s decision” to accept the case. The statement continued, “As Alaska’s harsh winter season rages on, Alaska Native people and Alaska Native communities continue to suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of the pandemic. The latest COVID-19 relief bill did not include funds for tribal organizations — making it imperative for Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) to finally gain access to the CARES Act tribal funds Congress intended for us last spring. This long overdue emergency assistance is critical to thousands of Alaska Native People who rely on ANCs for vital health, education and social service programs.” The statement continued: “We hold strong our belief that Alaska Native people should not be punished for the unique tribal system that Congress established for the state 50 years ago. Nor should they be denied critical aid in a global pandemic because of a law’s use of commas. We are simply asking for Alaska Native people to receive the same support provided to millions of other Americans. Read more at Law & Crime
JANUARY 12: Tribal Elders Are Dying From the Pandemic, Causing a Cultural Crisis for American Indians The loss of tribal elders has swelled into a cultural crisis as the pandemic has killed American Indians and Alaska Natives at nearly twice the rate of white people, deepening what critics call the deadly toll of a tattered health system and generations of harm and broken promises by the U.S. government. The deaths of Muscogee elders strained the tribe’s burial program. They were grandparents and mikos, traditional leaders who knew how to prepare for annual green-corn ceremonies and how to stoke sacred fires their ancestors had carried to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. One tiny Methodist church on the reservation recently lost three cherished great-aunts who would sneak candy and smiles to restless children during Sunday services. “We’ll never be able to get that back,” Mr. Salsman said. Tribal nations and volunteer groups are now trying to protect their elders as a mission of cultural survival. Navajo women started a campaign to deliver meals and sanitizer to high-desert trailers and remote homes without running water, where elders have been left stranded by quarantines and lockdowns of community centers. Some now post colored cardboard in their windows: green for “OK,” red for “Help.” In western Montana, volunteers led by a grocery-store worker put together turkey dinners and hygiene packets to deliver to Blackfeet Nation elders. In Arizona, the White Mountain Apache sent out thermometers and pulse oximeters and taught young people to monitor their grandparents’ vital signs. Across the country, tribes are now putting elders and fluent Indigenous language speakers at the head of the line for vaccinations. But the effort faces huge obstacles. Elders who live in remote locations often have no means to get to the clinics and hospitals where vaccinations are administered. Read more at The New York Times

JANUARY 12: Ahtna announces the passing of beloved leader and Elder Roy Tansy Sr., who served as a veteran board member. ANVCA joins Ahtna and Mr. Tansy's family in mourning his passing, and we pray for his peaceful rest. Read more here.

JANUARY 14: US Supreme Court takes up case in which Native corporations seek CARES Act funding The - U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that challenge the distribution of CARES Act funding to Alaska Native regional and village corporations. Congress passed the CARES Act on March 27, 2020, in response to the public health emergency and economic hardships resulting rom the COVID-19 pandemic. The total relief package was $150 billion, with $8billion directed to tribal governments. However, several federally recognized tribes, and some Alaska tribal organizations, filed a lawsuit that said Alaska Native corporations do not constitute “tribal governments” and therefore should not receive the relief funding. The point of distinction is this: The group of Lower 48 and six Alaska Native tribes argue that the 1975 Indian Self Determination Act does not cover Native corporations in its definition of “tribe.” Lower courts split on whether Alaska Native corporations are eligible, and the U.S. Treasury Department asked the high court to review the case after the D.C. Circuit Court in September ruled that they aren’t. The 12 for-profit regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations were created under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The act transferred 44 million acres of land to the corporations, which also divided $962.5 million in compensation for land given up in the settlement agreement. With its foundation of Alaska Native corporate ownership, ANCSA was a significant departure form the Lower 48 reservation system… On Friday, The ANCSA Regional Association and the Alaska Native Village Corp. Association issued a statement welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case. “As Alaska’s harsh winter season rages on, Alaska Native people and the Alaska Native communities continue to suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of the pandemic,” the statement reads. “The latest COVID-19 relief bill did not include funds for tribal organizations — making it imperative for Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) to finally gain access to the CARES Act tribal funds Congress intended for us last spring. This long overdue emergency assistance is critical to the thousands of Alaska Native people who rely on ANCs for vital health, education and social service programs.” The statement says the tribal associations strongly believe the Alaska Native people should not be punished for the tribal system enacted by Congress 50 years ago. “Nor should they be denied critical aid in a global pandemic because of a law’s use of commas. We are simply asking for Alaska Native people to receive the same support provided to millions of other Americans.” Read more at Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

JANUARY 14: A four-woman team of healthcare professionals race across Northwest Alaska administering COVID-19 vaccines to house-bound Elders, crossing hundreds of miles by bush plane, snow mobile, and sled. Their determined efforts concluded with with 65 Elders vaccinated (across about a dozen villages), and the team's public commitment to continue pressing onward. Read more here.

JANUARY 20: Chugach Alaska Corporation (Chugach) purchases 150-acres of surface and subsurface estate at Pt. Martin on the edge of the Copper River Delta. The land is now overseen by Chugach Heritage Foundation to be preserved for cultural and historic merit for the benefit of future generations. The area is a historic crossroads travelled by the Chugach, Eyak, and Tlingit cultures, and is home to multiple historic and burial sites. Read more here.

JANUARY 21: Biden immediately slams the brakes on oil drilling in Arctic refuge President Joe Biden imposed a “temporary moratorium” on all oil and gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge shortly after taking office on Wednesday, citing the “alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program” and the inadequacy of a required environmental review. Biden’s move to slam the brakes on drilling in the northeast Alaska refuge is among a list of executive orders the newly-inaugurated president swiftly signed to undo actions by his predecessor. The new moratorium comes a day after the Trump administration announced, in its final moments, that it had finalized nine 10-year leases for oil drilling in the northernmost slice of the refuge, known as the coastal plain. The leases are held by two small companies and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state-owned corporation. The Trump administration had faced criticism that it rushed the controversial deals… If the Biden administration decides to ban oil drilling in the coastal plain, Mack said, it needs to figure out a way to compensate those that would have financially benefited from development, including the state of Alaska, and two Alaska Native corporations, Kaktovik Iñupiat Corp. and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. “This needs to be a value exchange,” Mack said. “There has to be something really, really significant placed on the table that we, as a state, can rely on.” Read more at Alaska Public Media

JANUARY 25: The Prince of Wales Landscape Restoration Partnership is selected to receive nearly $660,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership. The project's proposed developments are designed to restore habitats for local wildlife and fisheries, thereby stimulating the local economy and enhancing opportunities for traditional land use. All project activities will occur on the Prince of Wales island. Read more here.

JANUARY 25: 2 Administrative Law Issues In Tribal CARES Act Funds Ruling - Recently, in Shawnee Tribe v. Mnuchin, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the U.S. Department of the Treasury probably shortchanged the Shawnee Tribe in allocating emergency relief funds to Indian tribes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. It first held that the department's allocation was reviewable by the courts under the Administrative Procedure Act. It ruled that the department's allocation of funds to the tribe appeared to be arbitrary and capricious, and therefore invalid. This decision likely will result in millions of dollars of additional funding for the Shawnee Tribe and for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, which is similarly situated. More generally, it illuminates two important, and recurring, issues in administrative law — when are discretionary agency decisions exempt from judicial review, and when does an agency's reliance on imperfect data amount to arbitrary and capricious conduct? The CARES Act appropriated $8 billion for tribal governments to cover expenditures incurred with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to disburse these funds within 30 days. The act specified that the amount paid to each tribe "shall be the amount the Secretary [of the Treasury] shall determine … that is based on increased expenditures of each such Tribal government . . . and determined in such manner as the Secretary determines appropriate." Read more at Law360
JANUARY 25: Alaska has nation’s highest coronavirus vaccination rate - Alaska held the enviable position of having the highest rate of coronavirus vaccinations per capita in the nation as of last week, the state’s top health official said. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last Thursday that the progress was the result of community efforts to quickly distribute vaccinations and additional allotments for federal agencies within the state, KTOO-FM reported. Zink told the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce that Alaska receives more doses of vaccine because of allowances above the state’s share for the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. “We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes,” Zink said. “And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.” The allotment for the Indian Health Service, which works with tribal entities to deliver health care to Alaska Native residents, could have been subtracted from the state’s share of the federal supply, but ultimately was allowed to be added, Zink said. “That’s been transformational for Alaska, that decision for Operation Warp Speed,” Zink said of the Trump administration’s name for the national vaccine distribution initiative. Read more at Associated Press

JANUARY 28: Tribal Nations Deserve a Greater Say on Drilling Projects - The executive memorandum issued by the White House earlier this week announced that it would be a “priority” for the administration to ensure a thorough consultation process on future economic and extractive projects that intersect with Native communities and their lands and waterways. It’s a sensitive topic: American domestic production of natural gas, oil, and minerals has come at great cost to Indian Country. The objections of affected tribes have mostly been ignored. From Navajo Nation to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to Alaska Native villages, the federal government has partnered with corporations to use lands on or abutting sovereign territory to retrieve its desired materials, be it fossil fuels, water, copper, uranium, or any number of lucrative resources. The plan outlined in Biden’s memo to remedy the cycle of systemic arrogance will begin with a series of reports that each Cabinet agency will be required to submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. These reports, per the memo, will need to lay out how their offices will follow another, 21-year-old executive order, signed by President Bill Clinton. To put it in plain terms, Biden wants his underlings to write him an essay about how they will stop doing the bad things they have done for decades. It’s a good start, but it would be a disastrous end goal. Read more at The New Republic

FEBRUARY 1: An open letter to Alaska Public Media readers - Yesterday, Alaska Public Media published my story about tribal health vaccine distribution in Anchorage. The piece left out important context and hurt many readers, particularly Alaska Natives. For that, I’m sorry. I worked closely on this story with two editors; all three of us thought that, with a careful approach, we could find a way to report on a sensitive and polarized issue without making it worse. The strong reaction wasn’t expected and was a lesson for us. I spoke with Alaska Native people and institutions in the process of reporting, but I could have gone further and done better to understand the complexity that comes with conversations around the tribal health-care system. Our story left readers with an incomplete picture and did not capture the longstanding trauma inflicted on Alaska Native people around health-care and pandemic disease, and I’m grateful to the Native people who have helped me to better understand this over the past 24 hours. The story grew out of what we thought were worthy questions about public health efforts and ethics, given the challenges experienced by the elderly, essential workers and other vulnerable Anchorage people who had been struggling to access the vaccine. Read more at Alaska Public Media

FEBRUARY 1: Eligibility differences between state and tribal health systems frustrate some Alaskans waiting for vaccines - Anchorage’s main tribal health provider is vaccinating employees of its affiliated for-profit company and nonprofit organizations, and their household members, without regard to their race, age or vulnerability. That’s frustrating some of the teachers, people with underlying conditions and others enduring an excruciating wait for shots from state government. Southcentral Foundation has access to special vaccine shipments from the federal government, which has designated tribes as sovereign jurisdictions with their own authority over how to prioritize doses. SCF first opened vaccinations to its oldest Alaska Native “customer-owners,” then expanded them to successively younger groups before giving access to customer-owners 16 and over. In recent days, SCF has also allowed customer-owners’ and employees’ household members to be vaccinated, regardless of their age or race. And it’s opened shots to workers at CIRI, the Alaska Native-owned regional for-profit corporation, along with related nonprofit organizations, like Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Cook Inlet Housing Authority, which collectively employ hundreds of people. SCF is simultaneously developing plans to give shots to people at Anchorage homeless shelters, who currently lack access under the state’s framework for prioritizing vaccines. But the foundation’s decision to allow vaccinations for younger, healthy people whose jobs don’t place them at high risk of catching COVID-19 has generated tension in recent days. Some who qualified said they wondered whether someone more vulnerable should have been next in line, and public health experts and advocates questioned why SCF wasn’t prioritizing higher-risk populations. NOTE: Reporter Nathaniel Herz issued a response to this article, apologizing for the lack of perspectives from Alaska Natives. Read more at Alaska Public Media

FEBRUARY 3: Major Aleutian seafood plant reopens after COVID-19 outbreak - Unalaska’s largest fish processing plant reopened Monday after a COVID-19 outbreak forced it to shut down for almost a month. UniSea closed its doors Jan. 5 after a handful of workers tested positive for the virus following a New Year’s gathering in company housing. Since then, 66 of UniSea’s more than 900 workers tested positive for the virus, according to UniSea President Tom Enlow. Seventeen of those were during their two-week entry quarantine, and 49 were non-travel related cases, he said. “The virus has not been eliminated just yet,” Enlow said in an email. “We have active cases in isolation that we are monitoring and close contacts in quarantine that we are continuing to test. But we feel very good about our response to the outbreak and containment thus far.” The reopening is a bright spot for the Bering Sea fishing industry, which has been hampered by COVID-19 outbreaks at multiple boats and onshore plants. UniSea’s processing plant has a year-round workforce, and its facility handles multiple species, from cod to crab. The shutdown came just as it was gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year: the lucrative winter fishing season for pollock, which goes into products like fish sandwiches, fish sticks and sushi. Read more at Alaska Public Media
FEBRUARY 3: Alaska House deadlock continues, endangering state’s COVID-19 response
Two weeks into the 32nd Alaska State Legislature, members of the state House of Representatives say they are optimistic about ending a leadership deadlock soon, but cannot point to tangible progress. The ongoing deadlock, now the worst since statehood by some measures, has left the House unable to appoint even a temporary leader and is threatening Alaska’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since November, that response has been legally justified by a series of 30-day emergency declarations from Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The current declaration expires Feb. 15. On Tuesday, state health commissioner Adam Crum said he does not expect the governor to issue any additional orders. “The governor cannot extend the current declaration and will not issue another one while the Legislature is in session,” said Jeff Turner, a spokesman for the governor. Any further extensions must be approved by the House, which is currently unable to act. Since December, the 40-person House has been evenly split between a caucus of Republicans and a caucus that includes 15 Democrats, four independents and one Republican. “We’re basically in the same place: 20-20. We’re feeling a little more confident that we’re starting to feel a little movement, but we aren’t there yet,” said Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks. Read more at Anchorage Daily News

FEBRUARY 4: Alaska’s government should act in support of economic recovery - The state utilized the majority of its $1.25 billion in support of Alaska’s economy. Alaska’s mayors know today that this hasn’t been enough. The Alaska Conference of Mayors recently adopted a resolution encouraging state action in support of economic recovery. This is an important recognition that, even as Alaska’s community leaders have been actively working to sustain businesses throughout the pandemic, there remains the need for a coordinated effort to build on the financial support provided by federal, state and local governments. The pandemic and government’s necessary action in response, to avoid overwhelming our health care systems, resulted in business slowdowns and closures. The federal government provided relief through Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants, and the state and local governments followed up by utilizing CARES Act funds as grants to businesses and other organizations in need. Of note, while Alaska’s local governments were allocated 45% of the state’s CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds, 50% of that has gone out in the form of economic assistance. Essentially, the state, in cooperation with local governments, utilized the majority of its $1.25 billion in support of Alaska’s economy. Alaska’s mayors know today that this hasn’t been enough. The impacts to business have been diverse — the resolution notes the combination of oil demand and price slump, halt to cruise ship traffic, poor fishing returns and price, an almost non-existent tourist season, retail and restaurant closures, and increased costs to all industries. These haven’t affected all communities equally. Some have seen flat economic activity, and few closures. Others are devastated. Most are somewhere in the middle. NOTE: Nils Andreassen is the executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, which supports the activities of Alaska Conference of Mayors. Both organizations predate statehood, with missions to strengthen local governments. Read more at Anchorage Daily News (Op-ed)
FEBURARY 4: How is Alaska leading the nation in vaccinating residents? - With boats, ferries, planes and snowmobiles. - Alaska, the state with the largest land mass in the nation, is leading the country in a critical coronavirus measure: per capita vaccinations. About 13 percent of the people who live in Alaska have already gotten a shot. That’s higher than states such as West Virginia, which has received a lot of attention for a successful vaccine rollout and has inoculated 11 percent of its people. But the challenge for Alaska has been how to get vaccines to people across difficult, frigid terrain — often in remote slivers of the state? “Boats, ferries, planes, snowmobiles — Alaskans will find a way to get it there,” said the state’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, 43. Alaskans are being vaccinated on fishing boats, inside 10-seater planes and on frozen landing strips. Doctors and nurses are taking white-knuckle trips to towns and villages across the state to ensure residents are protected from the coronavirus. Contributing to Alaska’s quick speed in getting the vaccine to its residents is a federal partnership that allows the state, which has more than 200 indigenous tribes, to receive additional vaccines to distribute through the Indian Health Service. Other reasons include the state’s small population of 732,000, as well as a high number of veterans, Zink said. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that high-risk veterans receive priority for the vaccine. But one big reason is the state is practiced in delivering precious cargo by transport not often used in the Lower 48. Sometimes that even means adventures by sled. One all-female medical crew of four in December used a sled pulled by a snowmobile to deliver vaccine to the village of Shungnak in the state’s remote Northwest Arctic Borough. Read more at The Washington Post
FEBRUARY 5: Tribes expect a voice on land and waters under Haaland - With Democratic New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland poised to become the first Native American Interior secretary, tribal governments historically marginalized by the agency expect not only a greater respect for their autonomy, but also a more significant role in the nation's land and water management decisions. Tribes aren't a monolith, frequently pushing different — and sometimes competing — agendas. But tribal leaders and experts have identified common issues they expect Haaland to act on quickly if confirmed, including an overarching need for better consultation and recognition of tribal sovereignty across Interior's wide authority over lands and waters. "There's been a lot of neglect" of tribal programs, said Raina Thiele, an Obama administration official. "Haaland coming in as secretary begins to right the ship in terms of balance of focus of the department." Thiele served as former President Obama's associate director of intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, working with tribes, Native organizations and Alaska Native corporations. At Interior, the top job has been typically held by "a series of folks who are either experts in environmental issues and conservation issues or folks who are experts and really care deeply about fossil fuels, extractive industry, depending on which party is in power," said Thiele, an Alaska Native. Read more at E&E News

FEBRUARY 5: North Slope leaders react to Biden’s executive orders - President Joe Biden has issued a flurry of executive orders that will have considerable economic impacts on the indigenous people of the North Slope of Alaska. His moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has eliminated economic development opportunities for the only private landowner in the Refuge – Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation. That, along with the 60-day ban on federal permits, which is already preventing work in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, will have a significant effect on jobs and the economy of our region. In the days before and since taking office, President Biden promised to unify the country. Then, in his first order of business, promptly alienated Alaska and other states that rely on energy development to keep the lights on in their communities. While Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOICE) applauds the concept of unity, accomplishing it means working together. What we’re seeing instead are outside influences making decisions for our state and region without any consultation. This is precisely the type of unilateral approach to policy that VOICE was created to challenge. “These actions hinder Alaska’s growth and potential, and significantly hamstring the sustainability of our North Slope communities. Since oil was discovered in our region 50 years ago we have had to balance our cultural and subsistence needs against the economic realities of modern life. Our region and state has a singular economy in resource development – primarily oil and gas – and we entertain opportunities with the industry because nobody else is providing them,” said VOICE President Sayers Tuzroyluk. “We are eager to hear the Biden administration’s plan to replace the economy that it’s brought to a standstill, and look forward to working side-by-side with the President to create new, sustainable solutions for our region.” Read more at The Delta Discovery

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