April 13, 2020
The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20220
The Honorable David L. Bernhardt
Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
The Honorable Tara Sweeney
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Re: National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Statement Concerning Distributions to Alaska Native Corporations
Dear Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Bernhardt, and Assistant Secretary Sweeney:
The National Indian Gaming Association, with over 150 Tribal Nations as Members, is deeply troubled that Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) are going to be included as eligible tribal governments for relief under the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). As recently as this morning, the Interior Department Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs stated that she intended to include ANC’s in the distribution during a conference call with tribal leaders.
We support funding for Alaska Native village tribal governments included on the Interior Department’s list of federally recognized tribes eligible to receive federal services. Treasury and BIA must not include state chartered Alaska Native Regional and Village Corporations under Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) as Tribal governments under the CARES Act.
Although ANCs are referenced in the first part of the definition of Indian tribe set forth in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA), ANCs do not qualify as Indian Tribes because they are not eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to federally recognized Tribal Governments. Only those entities listed on the Interior Department’s annual List of Federally Recognized Tribal Nations are recognized by and eligible to receive, services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affair. The most recently published list came out on January 30, 2020, and comes within the definition of Indian tribe under the ISDEAA.
Construing the ISDEAA definition of Indian tribe to include ANCs completely misconstrues Congress’ intent in the CRF and represents a misreading of the ISDEAA itself. Worse, distribution of crucial relief funds for tribal governments would be shortchanged by having these funds distributed to entities that provide no governmental services or benefits to tribal members. Furthermore, this would allow for double or triple counting of Alaska Natives due to the fact that there are three layers for each Alaska Native village: federally-recognized Alaska Native village Tribal government; Alaska Native Village Corporation; and Alaska Native Regional Corporation.
Depending on the formula Treasury ultimately uses and the factors contained therein, some estimates have Alaska Native Villages and ANC’s consuming up to $4 billion of the $8 billion allocated to Indian Country.
It is significant that the Alaska Inter Tribal Council, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of Alaska Tribal governments, does not include Alaska Native Regional or Village Corporations because they are not Tribal governments. It would be improper to include ANCs as Tribal governments in the CRF allocation formula because the crucial need and delivery mechanisms are with the Alaska Native Tribal governments not the ANCs.
As the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) makes clear: Alaska Native Regional Corporations and Alaska Native Village Corporations are state chartered, stockholder-owned corporations, held by Alaska Natives. They are not Tribal governments, nor are they arms of tribal governments, and should not be permitted to unfairly benefit from funds appropriated for tribal governments. In contrast, Alaska Native tribal governments are Indian Tribes and Tribal governments recognized by the Secretary of the Interior, as such, under the Federally Recognized Tribe List Act of 1994.
For the reasons set forth herein, we strongly urge that ANCs be excluded from the distribution formula for the CRF.
Ernest L. Stevens, Jr, Chairman
National Indian Gaming Association
CC: Senator Hoeven (R-ND); Senator Udall (D-NM)