Anchorage Assembly to formalize government-to-government relations with Eklutna tribe

The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage. (Staff photo/Alaska Public Media)

The Municipality of Anchorage voted unanimously Tuesday night to formalize government-to-government relations with the Native Village of Eklutna.

The move followed more than an hour of contentious debate. The Assembly resolution is just over a page long, and lays out the intention of establishing a
formal relationship with Eklutna over the course of the coming year. The federally recognized tribe owns land in the northern end of the municipality.

Although the resolution is a modest step toward establishing a more formal relationship, it was complicated by a confusing push by private interests to tie the measure to ongoing litigation concerning gambling. Eklutna is currently working through the courts to establish a right to set up a casino, something established gambling interests in Anchorage oppose.

A full-page ad in the Anchorage Daily News this week tried to tie the Assembly’s government-to-government resolution to the casino litigation, something several Assembly members said was unrelated and misleading. 

Aaron Leggett is president of Eklutna’s tribal council, and says the issue of a casino and formalizing relations with the municipality have nothing to do with each other.

“I think the fact that a separate issue is being used to pollute this is frankly
abhorrent,” he said.

Ultimately a debate over whether or not to delay a vote on the measure in order to allow for public testimony was shot down. Initially several members, including those from the Eagle River district — which includes the Eklutna area — said the issue deserved public input. Supporters, however, said the year-long process would allow for that.

The resolution passed unanimously.