Landmark legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the Alaska House Wednesday, a bill which gives 229 federally-recognized tribes formal recognition by the State of Alaska.
Representative Chuck Kopp R-Anchorage sponsored House Bill 221 so the state and tribes can tackle issues like child welfare, public safety, criminal justice and education more expediently.
“It’s a little surreal for me to be advocating for the simple acknowledgement and recognition of our tribal governments because for my entire life our tribes have been a very consistent and rock-solid part of the state," said Representative John Lincoln D-Kotzebue when the bill was introduced Friday. "It’s like having a formal acknowledgement of the existence of Denali or something like that. It’s just a basic feature of reality.”
The legislation passed the House on a 31-5 vote. Several Republicans holdouts wanted the recognition to be in the form of a non-binding resolution instead of codified in state law. There was concern expressed that it would lead to Alaska Natives receiving special treatment.
“Refusing to acknowledge their existence is so hard to fathom because it’s refusing to acknowledge a basic part of reality," Lincoln said. "To me, it’s a damaging position.”
The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.