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.