Tribes in Alaska can now take lands into trust

Tribes in Alaska can move forward with petitioning the federal government to take lands into trust. A federal appeals court today dismissed the state of Alaska’s challenge in the trust litigation.

Indian Country status in Alaska would afford the same protections as reservation lands in the lower 48.

In 2007, Alaska tribes sued the Interior Department for the right to take land into trust. Even after a legal opinion from the Interior Department said it was discriminatory to treat tribes in Alaska differently from tribes in the lower 48, the state continued its challenge in the case.

Attorney Heather Kendall Miller brought the case for the tribes. She said today’s decision is a big deal.

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Kendall Miller said now that the stay against Alaska tribal petitions has been lifted, the BIA will publish notice of those trust land applications within 30 days.

State Law Department Spokesperson Cori Mills sent this email response to a request for comment:
“We will review the decision as we do all appellate decisions and determine next steps after a thorough evaluation.”
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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori