A parking lot a short walk from the Governor’s Mansion is the newest land site that will likely be designated as a reserve under the new “Indian Country” rules that apply to Alaska.
Three parcels subject to the change are owned by the Central Council Tlingit and the Alaskan Haida Indian tribes, and would total one-fifth of an acre. The area is used for parking and as vacant land.
The council asked the Home Office to accept the land “in trust,” making it an Indian reservation, largely subject to tribal authority over municipal authority.
According to a notice received by the State of Alaska and the City and Borough of Juneau, the three plots are surrounded by other properties owned either by the tribe or by members of the tribe. Two of the plots are contiguous and the third is a vacant lot.
The council has not announced any plans for the uses of the property, which is located in a part of town known as the Indian Village of Juneau, directly across from Driftwood Lodge, where many lawmakers live during the legislative session. . Other nearby plots are in the process of being requested, according to sources who requested anonymity.
The City and Borough of Juneau may need more time to discuss with council who will provide police, fire and emergency protection, and other services.
The BIA is seeking comments on “the impact of removing the subject property from the tax rolls, and…. jurisdictional issues and potential land use conflicts that may arise.
Craig, Alaska, was the first place land was placed under federal trust status after the Walker administration dropped its challenge to the Akiachak case last year. This abandonment of state authority ushered in the ability of tribes to seek reserve status from the federal government.
One opinion comes from Mary Bishop of Fairbanks, who is an expert on land access in Alaska and Indian country. She believes Indian Country has been extinct in Alaska and the whole state is better off.
“The important question is the future – think seven generations ahead. If these lands are placed in trust, adjacent lands can more easily be placed in trust. Assuming the land is accepted for trust, the tribe is a sovereign nation with land in trust under tribal governance as an Indian country. The BIA and the courts will provide them with as much “self-determination” as Indian law can allow. The tribe can ignore state and municipal zoning and regulations, set up a marijuana business or some other business that unfairly competes with non-tribal, taxable and regulated businesses, ”she said.
Federal government agencies have determined that the Indian country was extinguished by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act:
According to the EPA, “Generally speaking, a land in Alaska would not be considered an Indian country on the sole basis of its association with an Alaskan Native village or its ownership. Much of the current Native land ownership in Alaska was established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which extinguished the previous reserve status of most Native lands. Because the lands of Native Alaskan villages are also not considered dependent Indian communities, they are generally not an Indian country.
But the Office of Indian Affairs, under the leadership of former Home Secretary Sally Jewell, decided to change the terms of ANSAA. With the arrival of nominations for Indian Country, Alaska has entered a new chapter of multi-jurisdictional challenges.