Court Battles

Native American tribes sue feds over coronavirus relief distribution

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Several native American tribes filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department on Friday, arguing that for-profit Alaska Native corporations shouldn’t get a share of the $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief for tribes.

The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state; the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine; and the Akiak Native Community, Asa’carsarmiut Tribe and Aleut Community of St. Paul Island in Alaska filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Native American reservations have been hit hard by the pandemic, leading to a shut down of casinos, tourism operations and other businesses that serve as their main source of income.

“It is what Indian Country will rely on to start up again,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., told The Associated Press. “And Congress surely didn’t intend to put tribal governments, which are providing health care, education, jobs, job training, and all sorts of programs, to compete against these Alaska corporate interests, which looks like a cash grab.”

Monday was the first time some tribes were made aware that Alaska Native corporations would be eligible for tribal funding. The deadline to file a grievance with the funding formula was the same day. 

“The federal government’s responsibility to consult with tribal nations is based on not only longstanding policies, but it’s also based on important standards of respect,” Jonodev Chaudhuri, a former Interior Department official and chairman of the Indian Law and Policy Group, told the AP. 

“Consultation is to be meaningful and timely,” he added.

Native Americans are one of the demographic groups most impacted by the pandemic. As of Thursday, the Navajo Nation reported 1,042 cases among the 175,000 residents of the reservation and 41 deaths, according to the Arizona Republic.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus relief Department of Treasury Indigenous peoples of North America

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