The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 defines “Indian Tribe” as “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village OR regional OR village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.” But six Tribes have filed a lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (pictured), contending that ANCs should not receive any of the $8 billion set aside for Tribal governments through the CARES Act.
Meanwhile, ANCs assert: “The CARES Act is unambiguous: Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native regional corporations, and Alaska Native village corporations are ‘tribes’ under the CARES Act.”
Six federally recognized Tribes filed a lawsuit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to bar Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from distributing any of the $8 billion in Tribally designated COVID-19 relief funds to Alaska Native Corporations.
The clock is ticking as money is supposed to be transferred “not later than 30 days” after the March 27th enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The lawsuit was filed by two Tribes in Washington State, the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Tulalip Tribes; the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine; and by three Alaska Native communities: the Akiak Native Community, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island
The lawsuit — Chehalis Tribe et al v. Mnuchin Complaint for Injunctive Relief re ANCs and Relief Funds — seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions that would prohibit Mnuchin from designating for-profit Alaska Native Corporations as Tribal governments.
Meanwhile, ANCs are speaking up, stating: “The law is clear” that Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native regional corporations and Alaska Native village corporations qualify as Tribes under the CARES Act, and “our legal mandate as Alaska Native corporations is to support our Alaska Native communities and shareholders economically, culturally and socially,” according to an op-ed published in Indian Country Today by Bering Straits Native Corporation president and CEO Gail Schubert, CIRI president and CEO Sophie Minich, Chugach Alaska Corporation board chair Sheri Buretta, and Koniag president Shauna Hegna. Read the op-ed here: Alaska Native Regional Corporations: ‘We support Asst. Sec. for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney.’
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Regional Association’s Board echoes those sentiments, articulating in an op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News their dismay regarding Native organizations, such as the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), taking the position that under the CARES Act, a Tribal government does not include Alaska Native corporations.
“The Departments of the Treasury and the Interior have both affirmed, without any input from Assistant Secretary [Tara] Sweeney, their interpretations that ANCs (on behalf of their Alaska Native shareholders) were intended by Congress to be included with other Tribes in the Act’s Tribal Relief Fund provisions,” the ANCSA Regional Association authors state. “…As Alaska Native corporations, our legal mandate under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is to support our Alaska Native shareholders economically, culturally and socially. We meet the legal standard of the CARES Act but also the mission of service to our Native shareholders and communities.”
Read the ANCSA Regional Association Board of Directors’ full op-ed here.