Plans for Y-K Delta tribal government move forward, with help from regional corp.

An Alaska Native man stands on the beach with bots seen behind him.
Mike Williams Sr., senior chief of the Akiak Native Community photographed in 2016. Williams has said that tribes, not corporations, should receive government relief. (Katie Basile / KYUK) (Katie Basile/KYUK)

Attempts to create a regional tribal government for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta appear to be picking up steam. The Calista regional corporation, working with consultants, now has a process in place for each of the 56 tribes in the region to signal their intent to vote on the creation of a regional government.

Mike Williams Sr., president of the Nunavut Alaska Provisional Government, a regional tribal government created when leaders from about half the region’s tribes met to write a constitution, said that he welcomes and is grateful for Calista’s help.

“And their role is to help facilitate the process,” said Williams Sr. “And we welcome that as tribes because we do not have any resources for travel or getting together, and to provide legal assistance to get this going.”

Due to the pandemic, the deadline for tribes to respond to the idea has been moved back to the end of this year. Calista would have no role in the regional tribal government when it is created. The first order of business for that body would be to hold elections, Williams Sr. said, to place tribal chiefs in the new regional government. Williams said that this body could have powers to do everything from educating its members and policing, to regulating and developing the region’s resources. 

Asked whether the Nunavut has a position on the proposed Donlin mine, Williams Sr. said that at this time, it does not.

“There are tribes that support the project, and there are tribes that are against it. It will be up to the 56 tribes to take this issue up,” said Williams Sr.

The idea of creating a regional government has been one that has been advocated for almost half a century. 

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Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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