BY MORGAN LEGEL
Although CARES Act funds continue to be dispersed in the U.S. mainland and in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Alaskan Native Corporations. were recently voted ineligible to receive special tribal funds by the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to Journal files, an ANC is a regional corporation, village corporation, urban corporation or group corporation at least 51% owned by an Indian tribe. By statute, an ANC is a disadvantaged business, allowing it to receive special consideration under the Native 8(a) program and the Alaska Native Claims Act.
On a normal basis, the ANC status is an advantage, but in the realm of the CARES Act, these corporations are not so lucky.
When the CARES Act was being drafted, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski specifically worked towards having $8 billion of the funds set aside to help tribes and Alaska Native Corporations respond to the pandemic.
The Department of Treasury, in its form seeking tribal data to help apportion the funds, requested information from tribes including each tribe’s name, population, land base, employees and expenditures. The form, when seeking population information, requested the total number of tribal citizens, members or shareholders — shareholders are unique to ANCs in this characterization, suggesting they would receive funding, which was concluded by the Department of the Treasury later in April.
Signed into law in March, the CARES Act quickly received fallout from several tribes in the form of lawsuits to prevent CARES Act funds from being distributed to ANCs. Collectively, the plaintiffs encompass six federally recognized tribes in Alaska and twelve federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states.
The problem, the tribes alleged, is that the ANCs do not fit the definition of being a “Indian Tribe” within the CARES Act, or the original Indian Self-Determination And Education Assistance Act, because they are not “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”
The case was heard by the Supreme Court on Sept. 11, with a verdict issued on Sept. 25 stating that the corporations would not be allowed to have the CARES Act funds distributed to them.
The court documents state, “Because no ANC has been federally “recognized” as an Indian tribe, as the recognition clause requires, no ANC satisfies the ISDA definition.”
“Those funds were solely intended to support the cost of responding to the pandemic,” Murkowski said in an Oct. 14 speech at the virtual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. “Some have tried to make this about sovereignty and have ignored how many Alaska Natives — particularly in urban areas like Anchorage and Fairbanks — how many are served by 638 compacts that are executed by ANCSA Regional Corporations and their designated tribal organizations. So, leaving ANCs out of the response fund in the CARES Act could disenfranchise tens of thousands of Alaska Natives.”
ANCs have and have had a presence in Guam through the following companies:
Wolf Creek Federal Services and Defense Base Services Inc., both of which are wholly owned subsidiaries of their parent company, Chugach Alaska Corp. Wolf Creek maintains Naval Base Guam’s housing.
Silver Mountain Construction LLC in Hagatna is one of the 11 subsidiary companies of North Wind Group, according to Journal files.
Alutiiq LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Afognak Native Corp. Its specialties include protective services, professional administrative and management services, engineering services, security and professional services international, facilities, education, construction and oilfield support services, remote facilitates and services and has served the Department of Defense Education Activity as a contractor. mbj