Eklutna is a bit of an enigma in Anchorage. There are believed to be under 50 tribal members who live in the Native Village of Eklutna proper, north of Anchorage.
As many as 150 make up the tribe itself; these are people spread around the state. The group is comprised of only a few families, and the village is run by one family, more or less — the dominant clan.
The Assembly of Anchorage is about to pass an ordinance that will formalize government-to-government relations with the Village, whose actual membership number is closely guarded information.
At the heart of the matter is a long-sought-after casino. In October, the Eklutna sued the Department of Interior, challenging the ruling that the tribe does not hold governmental authority over the land in question, and can’t establish gaming operations there.
The ordinance that is advancing would help establish more government authority for the village.
Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Native tribes can open electronic bingo halls on sovereign land without permission of the state, so long as there are other similar operations legally operating elsewhere in the state. There is one electronic bingo hall in the reservation of Metlakatla.
Eklutna graveyard, a combination of Russian Orthodox tradition and Native American practices, is outside of the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Eklutna.
The land that the Eklutna want to build their gaming hall was granted by the Alaska Native Allotment Act, and the tribe says it has jurisdiction and has provided governmental Services ever since 1906.
For this reason, the word “sovereignty” is inserted in the ordinance and takes on greater importance, as does the government-to-government relationship status.
At a work session last week, the Assembly discussed the ordinance to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Native Village of Eklutna and start including its leader, Aaron Leggett, in negotiations of various sorts. For instance, Leggett told the Assembly, if there was a major development at the Port of Anchorage, the village leaders would need to be consulted.
Listen to the discussion about the ordinance among Assembly members on Jan. 8:
The ordinance is limited to the Native Village of Eklutna, but the sponsor, Assemblyman Chris Constant, says this is just a start to having the municipality create government-to-government relationships with villages and/or tribes all over the state.
And he also wants an office of rural affairs established in the municipality.
The Assembly majority has made it a priority to “decolonize” Anchorage, and this ordinance is a step toward that goal.
According to the village’s website, the Eklutna Native Village government office was organized in 1961 by the traditional people of Eklutna Village in order to be recognized for protecting land rights. By then, the 326,000 acre Eklutna Reservation had been reduced over the years to a mere 1,819 acres. The tribe became federally recognized and is recorded under IRS code 83.87, section 7871, the Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act of 1982.
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