- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The federal and state governments treat Alaska Natives like second-class citizens, a speaker at the Tanana Chiefs Conference convention told a Fairbanks audience.

U.S. Indian Law and Order Commission chairman Troy Eid said Tuesday that a lack of tribal sovereignty and a colonial attitude are contributing to an unconscionable record for Alaska Native justice, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/9vYGis) reported Wednesday. Alaska’s indigenous people are saddled with an ineffective and unequal system, he said.

“You are not stakeholders,” Eid said. “You are members of sovereign governments.”

The independent commission was created in 2010 to review the justice system in Indian Country and report its findings to President Barack Obama and Congress. The commission’s report was released in November and blasted Alaska’s system.

At Tuesday’s conference, Fort Yukon Chief Steve Ginnis asked delegates to consider a resolution asking the federal government to treat Alaska Natives under the same civil rights legislation as other Native Americans.

Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who spoke to delegates by videoconference, was asked if she would pledge to support such a resolution. She said the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act creates a special distinction for Alaska Natives.

Murkowski said identical legislation for Alaskans and tribes outside the state are not always possible. But Congress needs to ensure Alaskans don’t get unequal treatment, she said.

“We need to be sure that Alaska Natives are treated justly and fairly, as are all Natives,” Murkowski said.

Eid, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado, said lawmakers in Juneau and in Washington could help change problems such as high suicide rates and domestic violence in Alaska. The first step is to stop excluding Alaska Natives from federal legislation that protects Native Americans in other parts of the nation, Eid said.

He dismissed the notion that the settlement-claims law requires that Alaska Natives be treated differently than lower 48 Native Americans.

“They’re laws Congress made, and Congress can revisit it,” he said. “It’s not as if these are immutable, unchangeable laws.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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