235. Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, February 25, 1998
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363 in Federal expenditures is another important factor in the increased poverty levels among American Indians. In summary, American Indians are younger and have higher levels of poverty, unemployment, single parent families, fertility and mortality than the U.S. population at large. Tragically, trends are deteriorating for this highly vulnerable population. Tribal self-determination relies on strong tribal self-governance and self-sufficiency. However, numerous obstacles defined by popular public opinion and misconceptions of Indians present tribal leaders, managers and their members with seemingly insurmountable challenges hindering the pursuit of strong and stable governing institutions , economic development and human capital development. Today, the BIA plays a critical role in removing obstacles to capacity building and promoting tribal selfdetermination . . . . GOALS. . . . Self-Determination Goal: To provide tribes with the resources they need to exercise their authority as sovereign nations by contracting or compacting Bureau programs, as authorized under Pub. L. 93–638, as amended. . . . Tribal Government Goal: To foster strong and stable tribal governments so that they may manage their own affairs and relate to other government entities as sovereigns. . . . Human Services Goal: To improve the quality of life in tribal communities. . . . Law Enforcement Services Goal: To provide quality investigative and police services and technical expertise to Indian tribes. . . . Community Development Goal: To provide tribes with the resources necessary to develop a self-sustaining economic base which in turn will work to empower tribes. . . . Natural Resources Goal: To assist American Indians and Alaska Natives in developing conservation and management plans to protect and preserve their natural resources on trust lands and shared off-reservation resources . . . . Trust Services Goal: [To] ensure the trust responsibility to protect and preserve trust lands and trust resources. . . . Administration and Support Services Goal: To reduce long-term costs and improve timeliness of service through the use of modern , automated techniques and processes for management in the arena of administration . . . . Education Goal: To provide quality education opportunities from early childhood through life in accordance with the Tribes’ needs for cultural and economic well-being in keeping with the wide diversity of Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages as distinct cultural and governmental entities. . . . [Bureau of Indian Affairs Strategic Plan, September 30, 1997, pp. 7–12, 16–43 passim .] 235. Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government February 25, 1998 The question of tribal authority over tribal lands in Alaska was much disputed because of the uncertainty about whether those lands were “Indian country” after the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The question was settled by the unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in this case, which reversed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. . . . . In this case, we must decide whether approximately 1.8 million acres of land in northern Alaska, owned in fee simple by the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, is “Indian country.” We conclude that it is not, and we therefore reverse the judgment below. I The Village of Venetie, which is located in Alaska above the Arctic Circle, is home to 364 the Neets’aii Gwich’in Indians. In 1943, the Secretary of the Interior created a reservation for the Neets’aii Gwich’in out of the land surrounding Venetie and another nearby tribal village, Arctic Village. . . . This land, which is about the size of Delaware, remained a reservation until 1971, when Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), a comprehensive statute designed to settle all land claims by Alaska Natives. . . . In enacting ANCSA, Congress sought to end the sort of federal supervision over Indian affairs that had previously marked federal Indian policy. ANCSA’s text states that the settlement of the land claims was to be accomplished “without litigation, with maximum participation by Natives in decisions affecting their rights and property, without establishing any permanent racially defined institutions, rights, privileges, or obligations, [and] without creating a reservation system or lengthy wardship or trusteeship .” . . . (emphasis added). To this end, ANCSA revoked “the various reserves set aside . . . for Native use” by legislative or Executive action, except for the Annette Island Reserve inhabited by the Metlakatla Indians, and completely extinguished all aboriginal claims to Alaska land. . . . In return, Congress authorized the transfer of $962.5 million in state and federal funds and approximately 44 million acres of Alaska land to state-chartered private business corporations that were to be formed pursuant to the statute; all of the shareholders of...