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USDA Tribal Collaboration Meetings Continue in Southeast Alaska

Left to Right:  Tim Gillen (Wrangell Cooperative Association); Delores Churchill (Ketchikan Indian Community); Frank Demmert, Jr. (Klawock Cooperative Association) and Rob Sanderson (Ketchikan Indian Community)

Left to Right: Tim Gillen (Wrangell Cooperative Association); Delores Churchill (Ketchikan Indian Community); Frank Demmert, Jr. (Klawock Cooperative Association) and Rob Sanderson (Ketchikan Indian Community)

The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the country, and constitutes 85 percent of the land mass in Southeast Alaska.  No doubt, land management issues in Southeast were a main topic of discussion at the Tribal Collaboration Meeting held in Ketchikan on May 4th.

Leaders from USDA agencies and other federal agencies met with tribes in southern Southeast Alaska in the third of a series statewide meetings with Alaska’s federally recognized tribes.  The purpose of the meetings is to engage in meaningful collaboration and to strengthen United States government-to-government relationships with tribes.  Topics included rural housing; utilities; food production and nutrition; land management, and economic and community development.

“There was an excellent turnout by tribal leaders from Saxman, Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island and other communities” said Barbara Blake of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, who facilitated the meeting. “Tribal leaders desire more interaction with federal representatives in Southeast Alaska so they can better understand their needs—and these meetings help achieve this goal.”

Problems with housing and the subsistence needs of tribal members were also big items of discussion.  There were many comments from participants reflecting the already close working relationship between USDA and Alaska Natives, along with another common theme of returning to traditional lives where tribes govern access to the resources they use.

“We are conducting these meeting in response to President Obama’s reissuance of Executive Order 13175 and to meet the responsibilities that arise from the unique legal relationship between the federal government and tribal governments,” said USDA-Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund. “These meetings are an excellent forum to better understand the needs of Native communities by seeking their advice and providing answers to their questions on federal programs and services.”

A large number of Federal agencies participated in the meeting in Ketchikan.

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