The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Federal recognition of local tribe near

 

Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Mary Hudetz, West Regional Desk editor for the Associated Press and President of the Native American Journalists Association visits Qutekcak Native Tribe headquarters on Third Avenue in Seward earlier this month.

(Editor’s note: This article has been edited for accuracy.)

Melanee Stevens, Youth Activities Director for Qutekcak Native Tribe, has been working at the tribe’s administrative center on Third Avenue for close to 10 years. While she’s moving on to another career outside of Seward, she had hoped to see federal recognition of the tribe by now. Stevens says that all the testimony has been given, lobbying undertaken and applications submitted. It could be just a matter of days away.

The Qutekcak Native Tribe submitted its first petition for recognition by the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1993 after existing under a formal tribal government since 1972. It was received but return correspondence literally got lost in the mail. A second petition for recognition in February 2002 was routed to the wrong division of BIA for processing. A third petition was filed in 2008 and stands an almost certain chance of leveraging federal recognition for the tribe.

Across the country most of today’s federally recognized tribes historically received federal recognition status through treaties, acts of Congress, presidential executive orders or other federal administrative actions, or federal court decisions. Alaska tribes have been provided other options including recognition according to criteria in the Alaska Amendment to the Indian Reorganization Act (the Alaska IRA), by being named in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), through specific recognition by Congress and through administrative confirmation by the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

In 1978, the Interior Department issued additional regulations to handle requests for federal recognition from Indian groups. These regulations, 25 CFR Part 83, were revised in 1994 and are still in effect but do not apply to Alaskan Native tribes. However, part of the limbo that QNT has found itself in is the diversion of a prior application to a division within BIA that studies recognition under this provision.

Not one of the 229 federal recognized tribes in Alaska has been recognized pursuant to the Part 83 regulatory process. If BIA “waves the wand” by means of administrative recognition, QNT will become the 230th federally recognized tribe by way of the Alaskan IRA. Alternatively the federal agency may choose to proceed by overseeing recognition through an election of QNT by its members, which will have the same end result.

According to the tribe, that QNT's status is in question at all is due to the federal government overlooking the the Native peoples in the Seward area while establishing tribal associations for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The list of entities eligible under ANCSA only identified urban tribes in Juneau, Kodiak, Sitka and Kenai.

Upon federal recognition, QNT would be responsible for administering tribal interests over a broad swath of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula, historically used by a variety of Native populations. With it’s largest concentration of members in the vicinity of Resurrection Bay, QNT’s management area would include Cooper Landing and Hope.

In its petitions, QNT claims to have roots as a community of Alaska Natives residing in the Seward area since 1886, the earliest date that can be documented. As of 2012, QNT had 298 enrolled members and the local tribal organization has provided health care and other community services, promoted self-sufficiency of its members and administered federal programs under the Indian Self-Determination Act. QNT also sponsors a renowned dance and drum program through which its elders pass on cultural values and practices to youth.

The tribe also collaborates with the Seward Community Library Museum in maintained the local Alaska Native Archive. QNT serves as area coordinator for the Native Youth Olympics program. With the imminent departure of Stevens, lifelong NYO participant and coach James Wardlow will be Seward’s point man for the games.

To learn about QNT and keep up with tribe news and events, visit their web-site at http://www.sewardaknatives.com. The Seward NYO contingent also maintains an active Facebook group.

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