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Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky urges legislature to recognize Alaska Native tribes in state statute

Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky on the Alaska House floor in 2020.
Courtesy of Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky
Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky on the Alaska House floor in 2020.

Democratic Alaska Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky delivered an address from the legislative Bush Caucus on the first day of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention on Dec. 13. Zulkosky represents the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s District 38 in the state House.

Zulkosky urged the legislature to recognize Alaska Native tribes in state statute. Tribes are already recognized under federal law. She said that tribal recognition within state law would strengthen relationships between tribes and the state and “open the door for healing and reconciliation.” She cataloged ways tribes already partner with the state to provide services to Alaskans.

“We see tribes provide everything from public safety and transportation to fishery management, health care, and economic development. Further, when the state was touting the state’s COVID-19 response as a leader in the nation, it was in large part thanks to the incredible leadership, adaptability, and quick response of our tribal health organizations,” Zulkosky said.

Also in her address, Zulkosky urged Alaska Natives to vote in elections as a way to combat inequities between rural and urban Alaska.

“Because when we vote, good things happen, ensuring our voice is at the table at all levels of power. In every boardroom and in every legislative body,” Zulkosky said.

One way Zulkosky said that the state can build equity between rural and urban areas is by preserving the Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund. Earnings from that fund subsidize rural energy costs.

Zulkosky also advocated for a balanced state budget, without a special withdraw from the Permanent Fund to boost the dividend.

“Just as it would be irresponsible for one of our Native corporations to mortgage its future and threaten its existence by paying out dividends larger than it could afford, it would also be irresponsible for the state to do so," Zulkosky said.

She advised that the budget cuts and tight spending bills from recent years should not continue at the expense of excluding rural Alaska from essential services.

“It’s shameful that communities in this country in 2021 do not have basic access to running water, affordable internet or mobile, or any type of law enforcement,” Zulkosky said.

The legislative session convenes on Jan. 18, 2022.

Anna Rose MacArthur served as KYUK's News Director from 2015-2022.
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