Yupiit Nation Presses for Tribal Governance Progress

Mike Williams addresses the Yupiit Nation forum. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
Mike Williams addresses the Yupiit Nation forum. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Yupiit Nation tribal members at an event Friday made a last second push for advancing sovereignty in Alaska. A few dozen people at a Yupiit Nation event in Bethel sent a late Friday afternoon letter to Governor Walker asking him to stop the state’s fight against putting lands into trust.

A brief is due in court Monday. Mike Williams of Akiak is the Yupiit Nation chief.

“We are urging, imploring that the Governor drop the appeal on this litigation,” said Williams.

Williams calls Yupiit Nation a consortium of federally recognized tribes. Formed in 1978 with 19 tribes, there were people from eight signed in Friday at the ONC meeting hall. The core of the group, however, is centered in Akiak, Akiachak, Tuluksak, and Kwethluk.

While tribes could see clarity on trust lands, the next steps for tribal governance are elusive after the Calista-led process lost steam and ran out of money. Calista leaders say that the matter is now in the hands of tribes. Their attorney, however, participated Friday. Williams wants to keep momentum.

A small crowd attended the event at the ONC multipurpose building. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.
A small crowd attended the event at the ONC multipurpose building. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

“We’re making progress towards fixing our lives and savings our lands and ourselves. Nobody is going to save us. The state of Alaska isn’t going to save us. Federal government is going to save us. We are the ones that are going to save us,” said Williams.

At the Calista-led March convention that never reached a quorum, leaders asked tribes to consider resolutions supporting a new regional tribal government or strengthening the Association of Village Council Presidents. Long past the deadline, Calista has heard from just nine tribes, including three that oppose any new changes. With some overlap, six wanted a new tribal government and two wanted to change AVCP. Opponents worry that a new government undermines existing tribes.

Ivan M. Ivan of Akiak urged reaching out and bringing more people up to speed.

“Any questions they have could be answered in this process. However slow it is? Just keep moving forward,” said Ivan.

After a long discussion, Yupiit Nation members wanted to maintain efforts to advance a tribal government structure and to push the issue at this fall’s AVCP convention.