- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Tribes in Alaska are applauding a regulation that allows them to apply for federal trust status for their lands.

The U.S. Department of Interior published a final regulation this week in a prolonged dispute between tribes, the agency and the state of Alaska.

“This is a huge, wonderful day to see Alaska tribes be able to fully exercise the right to have their petitions considered,” said Native American Rights Fund attorney Heather Kendall Miller.

Kendall Miller represented four tribes and one Alaska Native individual who filed a lawsuit in 2006 over the dispute, Alaska Public Radio Network (https://is.gd/uJLI1P) reported.

At issue was the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and an interpretation that Alaska tribes had lost the trust status right under the settlement act.

The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., rejected the state’s position that the settlement act mandated different treatment for tribes in Alaska. The state is appealing.

Trust status means local and state governments cannot tax economic development initiatives tribes may develop on their lands.

One of the plaintiffs is Chilkoot Indian Association, which had 106 acres of land donated to it by a church.

Numerous tribes beside the plaintiffs have been preparing applications for trust status requests, according to Kendall Miller.

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