Unit 6: Current Alaska Native Political Issues

Lesson 1: Current Status of Tribal Sovereignty in Alaska

Objective 1: Students understand the impacts that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government has had on tribal sovereignty in Alaska in terms of territorial jurisdiction, with the determination that ANCSA lands are not Indian Country. Students understand how this decision has and continues to make it difficult for tribes to function as sovereigns.

Objective 2: Students understand the possibilities for increased tribal sovereignty in Alaska with the Akiachak v. Salazar decision and the ability of tribes to petition the Secretary of the Interior to take tribal land into trust.

Objective 3: Students are aware of the various ways that tribes may be exploring the exercise of greater sovereign powers, such as through the possible enactment of fish and wildlife management codes for tribal lands.

Objective 4: Students are aware of the opposition to greater tribal sovereignty in Alaska that continues to exist, particularly from the State of Alaska and interest groups who are wary of tribal empowerment. Students understand the various reasons that these groups/entities oppose tribal empowerment.

Lesson Ideas

  • Online Lesson: Have students visit the UAF Tribal Management Program’s webpage on Alaska Tribal Sovereignty and Jurisdiction: Major case law affecting Alaska tribal jurisdiction and read the information presented. https://www.uaf.edu/tribal/112/unit_4/alaskatribalsovereigntyandjurisdictionmajorcaselawaffectingalaskatribaljurisdiction.php
  • Assigned Reading and Discussion: Have students read the brief synopsis of the Akiachak v. Salazar case on the Native American Rights Fund website: http://www.narf.org/cases/akiachak-v-doi/. Also have the students read background information on the case, including the State of Alaska’s position, in this SitNews article/brief: http://www.sitnews.us/0815News/082715/082715_brief_akiachak_appeal.html. Have students identify similarities between the Akiachak v. Salazar case and the Katie John cases regarding the position of the State of Alaska in opposition to tribal interests. Have a class discussion about the possibilities for tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction in Alaska based on this ruling.
  • Internet Research and Opinion Piece: Have students conduct Internet research about different opinions that exist on the idea of Alaskan tribes being able to put land into trust. Have students write down mention of plans and/or possibilities for strengthened or expanded tribal governance in Alaska as a result of the potential for trust land. Have students write a short essay/opinion piece about whether they feel Alaskan tribes should be able to put land into trust and whether or not ideas mentioned for strengthened/expanded tribal governments are good or bad ideas and whether they are feasible.

Lesson 2: Subsistence

Objective 1: Students are aware of the current efforts under way by such entities as AFN to ensure the protection of Alaska Native subsistence rights, through such means as lobbying for a Native subsistence priority.

Objective 2: Students are aware of the current challenges facing the Alaska Native subsistence community arising from resource depletion, such as the salmon disaster that has been occurring on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Students understand some of the ways that the Native community is working to address these management issues, such as through exploring tribal co-management.

Objective 3: Students are aware of some of the issues facing subsistence users arising from environmental change, particularly impacts on ice associated marine mammals and what this could mean for communities dependent on these resources for subsistence. Students are aware of how changes in weather patterns affect subsistence communities and their ability to safely and successfully hunt. Students are aware of what actions are being taken by Alaska Native organizations to address these impacts.

Lesson Ideas

  • News Feature Video: Have students act in a mock newscast featuring the latest events and information about Alaska Native subsistence advocacy. Students can act as reporters and activists/Alaska Native leaders/subsistence users being interviewed for the news report, and other students can be in charge of filming, editing, and script writing. All of the students will be involved in the research on what to include in the news feature. Current events regarding subsistence that may be included are AFN’s most recent activities and statements related to subsistence, such as its announcement that it is exploring the blood quantum issue for marine mammal hunters, the subsistence harvest disasters being experienced by fishing communities on the Yukon and Kuskokwim and walrus hunting communities in the Bering Strait region, and the potential impacts of Endangered Species Act listing for Alaska Native subsistence resources.
  • Climate Change and Subsistence Interviews: Have students conduct interviews with members of their community on subsistence impacts being observed, felt, and/or anticipated due to climate change. Have students document the concerns community members have regarding this issue and any ideas or priorities community members might have for mitigation measures. Have students combine the information from the interviews and develop a collective report and/or poster on their findings.
  • Student Activists: Have students explore ways they can get involved in climate change activism to mitigate impacts on subsistence, and give students the opportunity to draft letters to their state legislators and Congressional delegation explaining the climate change impacts on their community and requesting that action be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  • Videos: Have students watch the documentaries about climate change impacts in Alaska Native communities on the following webpage: http://aksik.org/

Lesson 3: International Organizations/Issues

Objective 1: Students are aware of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and understand its significance for efforts to bring about greater recognition and protection of indigenous rights internationally.

Objective 2: Students know what various international indigenous organizations representing Alaska Natives are, such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Students understand the circumstances that led to their formation, including the Native leaders who helped to bring the organizations about.

Objective 3: Students are aware of the collaboration that occurs between indigenous people in Alaska and those in Canada, Greenland, and Russia on issues of mutual concern. Students are aware of what some of these issues are, such as strengthening indigenous self-governance, maintenance of indigenous languages and cultures, improving health, and the protection of subsistence rights and resources.

Lesson Ideas

  • Review and Discuss UNDRIP: Provide students with copies of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and go through the document with the class. Discuss individual components of UNDRIP with the class and ask the students to identify familiar themes or ideas within the document that resonate with ideas or topics covered previously in the course.
  • Group Presentations: Divide the students into four groups and assign each student one of the following organizations to research: Inuit Circumpolar Council, Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, and Gwich’in Council International. Have each group prepare a Power Point presentation on the history, structure, purpose, and utility of their assigned international organization.
  • Discussion: After the Power Point presentations, have a class discussion to identify some of the major themes in collaboration between indigenous peoples in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia through participation in these international organizations. Have students identify what issues and topics seem to be important areas of focus for the indigenous international organizations and record the discussion on the board.