Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Del Laverdure today announced a new framework for meaningful consultation with Alaska Native Corporations, the entities created by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA) to receive land and monetary compensation in settlement of aboriginal land claims by Alaska Natives. The supplemental policy builds on the Departmental Tribal Consultation Policy, adopted in December, 2011, that launched a new era of enhanced engagement with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, emphasizing trust, respect, and shared responsibility with the 566 federally recognized tribal governments in forming federal policy impacting Indian Country.
Secretary Salazar is scheduled to visit Alaska this weekend where he will be in Barrow and Nuiqsut to meet with the North Slope community leaders and tour the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska which is managed by the Department.
"Interior respects the unique cultural traditions and values of Alaska Native people and the distinct relationship between the Alaska Native Corporations and the Federal Government," Secretary Salazar said. "The new framework ensures meaningful consultation so that corporation officials are at the table and engaged when it comes to the matters that affect them."
"Consultation is a deliberative process that aims to create effective collaboration and informed federal decision-making," said Acting Assistant Secretary Laverdure. "This policy creates an opportunity for input from all affected Alaska Native Corporations. Federal consultation conducted in a meaningful and good-faith manner will make for better, more effective Departmental operations and practices."
Congress has required federal agencies to consult with Alaska Native Corporations on the same basis as American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes. Representatives from Alaska Native Corporations provided input to the supplemental policy and emphasized the unique consultation challenges and opportunities in Alaska.
The supplemental policy announced today seeks to balance the legal requirement for federal consultation with Alaska Native Corporations while respecting the unique government-to-government relationship between the U.S. Government and federally recognized Tribes in Alaska and in the Lower 48 States. To the extent that the consultation process differs, Interior officials shall give due consideration to the important role of Alaska Native Corporations and the sovereignty status and right of self-governance of federally recognized Tribes.
The supplemental policy outlines improvements in the Department's consultation processes with Alaska Native Corporations and complements existing policies that guide consultation processes with Indian Tribes. Interior bureaus and offices will seek and promote cooperation, participation, and efficiencies between agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, special expertise, or related responsibilities regarding a Departmental Actions with Alaska Native Corporations implications.
Departmental Actions include any regulation, rulemaking, policy, guidance, legislative proposal, grant funding formula changes or operational activity that may have a substantial direct effect on an Alaska Native Corporation, including Corporation land, water areas, or resources; as well as any activity impacting the ability of an Alaska Native Corporation to participate in Departmental programs. Departmental Actions do not include matters that are in litigation or settlement negotiations, or matters for which a court order limits the Department's discretion to engage in consultation.
ANCSA authorized Alaska Natives to select and receive title to 44 million acres of public land in Alaska, as well as approximately $962 million in payments. ANCSA established a statewide organizational structure to facilitate land title and cash payment transfers to Alaska Natives. The State was divided into twelve geographic regions, each commensurate with an existing "Native Association" composed of Alaska Natives with common heritage and shared interests. The Act authorized regional corporations and village corporations to hold and manage the lands.
Alaska Natives who enrolled in these associations were made shareholders of the 12 corresponding regional corporations and of over 200 village corporations through privately held shares of corporation stock. A 13th regional corporation later was added to represent non-resident Alaska Natives.