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Rural Governance Commission Congratulates Governor Walker for Creation of Tribal Advisory Counsel

The Rural Governance Commission congratulates Governor Bill Walker, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott and their administration for creating the Tribal Advisory Council. The council’s mission is to “identify areas of concern and opportunity shared by the State and the Tribes and to suggest policy, programs and other means and methods for solutions and progress.”

The state working directly with tribes is an exciting step. RGC recognizes the challenges that lie ahead and appreciates this positive action in overcoming past acrimony.

The Rural Governance Commission was established in 1998 by then-Governor Tony Knowles. It formulated a comprehensive set of recommendations to reform the state government’s official policy toward federally recognized tribes in Alaska in order to improve and empower rural Alaska governance systems and ensure that local people receive the maximum benefit from them.

Fifteen years after the first report, a group of concerned and committed Alaskans concluded that “rural governance is unfinished business” in Alaska and came together in December, 2013 to revisit the original commission’s work. The reconvened commission concluded that no significant progress had been made in the past fifteen years and, in its report, offered recommendations very similar to those that were made in the original report in 1999.

By creating the Tribal Advisory Council, the Walker-Mallott administration has shown that it takes the commission’s recommendations seriously. RGC applauds the administration’s commitment to working with key representatives of the tribal community. RGC looks forward to working with the council to make all of the tools available for helping rural Alaska attain a new level of vibrancy. The diversity of the people in this state, including Alaska’s first people, is what makes Alaska great!

Rural Governance Issues are Front and Center with New Administration

Rural Governance Issues are Front and Center with New Administration

Transition report cites many recommendations advocated by the RGC

The Rural Governance Commission (RGC) applauds the Walker-Mallott Transition Team, particularly the Intergovernmental Relations Team, for crafting a policy blueprint aimed at improving the quality and reach of rural governance.

The Transition team listed formal tribal recognition as its top priority, an imperative articulated in two critical reports on rural governance:  the 1999 Report to the Governor by the Rural Governance and Empowerment Commission, and the 2013 reconvened RGC report.  (The transition team and Rural Governance Commission reports, as well as additional information, are available at www.ruralgov.org).  Special thanks go to Elizabeth Medicine Crow, chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Transition Team, and to First Alaskans Institute, who facilitated the 2013 reconvening that brought together more than 50 Alaskans from across the state to address the unfinished business of rural governance.

Veronica Slajer, staff to the 1999 commission, North Star Group president, and co-convener of the 2013 meeting, said, “Governor Walker’s state of the budget address underscored the urgent need to bring all available resources to the table.  We know that working with tribes fosters community well-being in Alaska, and that tribal recognition can also help the state through the current difficult fiscal situation.  Tribal recognition brings the possibility of increased federal funds, and intergovernmental cooperation between the State of Alaska and tribes can result in more savings and efficiencies.”

As a co-chair of the 1998-99 Rural Governance and Empowerment Commission and as an organizer of the 2013 Reconvening, Lt. Governor Mallott has been a leader on rural governance will be a vital participant in the state’s efforts to tackle the “unfinished business” of rural governance.

While the Walker-Mallott administration has so far initiated more action on rural governance than any administration in the past 15 years, much remains to be done. The self-identified Rural Governance Commission will continue to monitor the issues relating to state-tribal recognition. For more information, refer to www.ruralgov.org.

AFN passes resolution in support of the Rural Governance Commission

AFN passes resolution in support of the Rural Governance Commission

View the resolution below.

Alaska Federation of Natives Resolution in support of the Rural Governance Commission

Rural Governance is unfinished business in Alaska.

Rural Governance is unfinished business in Alaska.

A group of concerned and committed Alaskans is releasing its report on rural governance this week. The report will be released during the annual meeting of the Alaska Municipal League on Thursday, November 20, 2014, during a concurrent session on rural governance.  Copies of the report will be available during this session, to be held at the Hotel Captain Cook, in the Endeavor Room from 10:30-11:45 am.

Acknowledging that “rural governance is unfinished business” in Alaska, the group came together in December of 2013 to revisit and build upon the work of the original Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment (RGC).  The group—11 of the original commissioners and 40 committed Alaska leaders from across the state—agreed that the original 1999 RGC Report to the Governor could have been drafted either fifty years ago, five years ago, or five weeks ago.  The Report outlines the findings and recommendations of the reconvened Rural Governance Commission.

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Reconvened commission calls for a new beginning for rural governance in Alaska

Reconvened commission calls for a new beginning for rural governance in Alaska

The Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment affirms the right of all rural Alaskans to maximum local autonomy and the delivery of essential services, and affirms the vitality of their diverse cultures, ways of life and communities.” (Preamble to the 1999 RGC Final Report to the Governor)

Following months of work, the reconvened Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment is embarking on an ambitious action plan to address rural governance issues throughout Alaska.  This action plan is a call for our communities and leaders to finally address the needs of rural Alaska that continue to go unmet.  The original commission met in 1998-99 and made many constructive recommendations to the Governor for ways to improve relations and the delivery of service in rural Alaska.  Since that time, there has been little, if any, meaningful progress.

Finding that “rural governance is unfinished business” in Alaska, a group of concerned and committed Alaskans came together in December of 2013 to revisit the work of the original Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment (RGC).  The group—11 of the original commissioners and 40 individuals from all parts of the state— agreed that the original RGC Report to the Governor could have been drafted either fifty years ago, five years ago, or five weeks ago.

The participants of the reconvened 2013 RGC identified a series of issues and action items key to rural governance and empowerment that will be described in the Final Report to be issued in conjunction with the Alaska Municipal League annual meeting in November. As a first and critical step, the Rural Governance reconvene participants called on the State of Alaska to clearly and officially recognize tribes as governments.

The 2013 gathering was co-hosted by First Alaskans Institute and the North Star Group.  Unlike the first commission, which was state sponsored, this event was privately funded and self-initiated, reflecting the urgency felt by the participants that Alaskans must act to ensure rural communities have the recognition, support and tools they need to survive and thrive.

This week marks the beginning of an important conversation critical to the sustainability of rural Alaska and the vibrancy of the whole of Alaska. The statewide conversation will be kicked off during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, with announcements and presentations about the findings of the reconvened RGC. The final report of the reconvened Rural Governance Commission will be released in November, then presented at the annual meeting of the Alaska Municipal League (AML) in Anchorage, Nov. 21-23, 2014.

The reconvening report will include personal commitments and clear strategic focus areas to spur discourse and policy action. In addition to the report, First Alaskans Institute is compiling the high-level recommendations of various commissions and reports into one comprehensive resource that outlines and further affirms the need to support local governance, tribal sovereignty and empowerment. This report will also be made available in the next month.

“Rural Alaska is not a problem to be solved, but rather a solution and way of life to be activated and embraced to ensure Alaska does not lose itself.” (Report on the Reconvening of the Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment, Dec. 6-7, 2013, Anchorage).

CONTACT: Veronica Slajer (907) 360-2288