There’s a power struggle going on between Alaska Native tribes and corporations, and that battle was taken to Washington, DC last week. The board chairman of the Sealaska Native Corporation in Southeast, Albert Kookesh, was in Washington with the Alaska Federation of Natives, for whom he serves as co-chair. He was attending an event designed to bring unity to the Alaska Native and Indian American message, but Kookesh used some of his time in a White House meeting to advocate for corporations.
He and other representatives of the Alaska Federation of Natives met with Kim Teehee, President Obama’s senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs. And Kookesh says he told her corporations need more recognition in Alaska.
Kookesh says corporations want to join groups like the National Congress of American Indians, which called for last week’s indigenous gathering in Washington. He at first said Alaskans can’t join NCAI, but then clarified that Alaska’s tribes can – but not its corporations.
Those are troublesome words for some tribal leaders in Alaska, who see the mission and responsibility of the corporations as very different from that of tribes. Kookesh’s comments upset David Harrison, executive director for the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council. He says calling corporations “like Lower 48 tribes” hurts the actual Alaskan tribes.
Harrison says there’s a fundamental need for true tribes that’s different from the corporation’s mission of making money. He’s fighting Kookesh’s statements.
Harrison says he’s trying to get as many tribal representatives as possible at this week’s Alaska Federation of Natives gathering in Anchorage to speak up about the role of tribes, and later at this month’s National Congress of American Indians gathering in Portland.
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