HEARING BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS UNITED
ON HUNDREDTH CONGRESS FIRST SESSION
NOVEMBER 10, 1987
STATEMENT OF JULIE KITKA, SPOKESPERSON, ALASKAN FEDERATION OF
NATIVES, ANCHORAGE, AK
Ms. KITKA. Good morning, Mr. Chairman,
members, and staff.
My name is Julie Kitka. I am special assistant
to the president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. The Alaska
Federation of Na- tives iS a statewide Native organization in the State
of Alaska, rep- resenting the regional corporations set up by the Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act, a number of the nonprofit regional
associa- tions in the State, and almost 98 percent of the villages
within our State.
I am pleased to be able to testify here today
on behalf of AFN. We will be submitting written comments specifically on
the techni- calities of the amendments before you.
I wanted to
bring to your attention today that this issue is one of the most
important facing Alaska Natives. I have been spending considerable time
working on our land-related issues and amend- ments to the Alaska Native
Claims Settlement Act to try to resolve the different 1991 issues, but
the issues dealing with and affecting Alaska Native children ranks just
as high as the issues in protect- ing our land base.
Approximately 98 percent of all the litigation Alaska Natives are
involved in at this point are not dealing with our land and resource
issues, with subsistence or other related issues. The litigation is
dealing with Alaska Native families and Native organizations trying
to protect their rights to keep Native children with their families and
extended families. This is something that cannot be al- lowed to
continue -- the tremendous litigation, and the waste of re- sources of
Native people and communities just to try to protect children in their
There is a whole complex array of problems dealing with
chil- dren in our State: 1) the higher rate of alcohol abuse, 2)
domestic violence, 3) sexual offenses, and 4) the high number of Alaska
Native families which are split up by native men goinginto the
correctional system for a variety of reasons. All these have tremen-
dous impacts on the children in our State.
We would like to see
a comprehensive approach dealing with the social service needs and in
strengthening ways of keeping Alaska Native families together. We have
several suggestions on this, and one which goes beyond the scope of the
amendments before you today but which we feel is very important.
In the late 1960's, Congress took a leadership role in establishing
a Federal field commission to take a look at the status of Alaska
Natives. We would like to urge this committee to take a leadership
role in having some type of commission or organization set up to do
a field examination in the State of Alaska on the
status of Alaska Natives and their families.
We would like them
to report on what is going on in the commu- nities. For example: what is
causing almost 50 percent of the in- mates in the State of Alaska to be
Alaska Natives? Why are 50 per- cent of all the Alaska Natives that are
in the correctional centers from one area of the State?
these things combined are impacting our families and our children. They
are primary causes on why our children are being brought into the State
system and in, either foster care or being circulated around the State
outside of native families. This field commission or whatever title you
call it could come to Alaska and travel to the major regional areas in
our State and some of our villages and report back to the Congress their
findings and recommendations.
In addition, we would like the
committee to consider funding a statewide Indian child welfare
coordinating project for Alaska Na- tives. The purpose of this project
would be to coordinate Alaska Native positions on these amendments, and
coordination of ICWA issues in our State, in order to deal with the
disparity among the regions in our State.
There are some areas
in our State which are very well prepared and are dealing with the
implementation of the Indian Child Wel- fare Act well. There are some
positive things going on. We are very pleased with the Governor of the
State of Alaska, and also Commis- sioner Munson, who is going to be
testifying later, in their efforts in continuing negotiations for a
model State-tribal agreement.
However, we do need a statewide
coordinating project because the disparity in the regions is such that
those areas in our State which need the agreement or need better
representation in dealing with Indian child welfare issues are the ones
that are not getting the representation. A statewide project would
facilitate that, espe- cially for those areas of greatest need.
There are several other technical issues which we would like to
address. One deals with the whole area of concurrent jurisdiction
within the State. Jurisdiction deals with Alaska Natives and their
rights to tribal self-government. We feel this is an issue which
must be addressed by this committee to mitigate our continuing with
this tremendous amount of litigation.
Local control of issues such
as how native people raise their chil- dren and address child welfare
issues is absolutely essential. Our councils in our villages must have
the authority to make critical decisions on the ground. Areas are remote
and also because there are real clinical benefits for local control and
native councils being able to make these decisions. When you are talking
about commu- nities being ripped apart by alcohol and drug abuse and all
the other factors, there is a tremendous healing process that must take
place in our communities. Reassumption of concurrent jurisdiction or
local control will facilitate this healing which must take place in our
Another issue which must be addressed in the amendments
is the ability to transfer children's cases from the State courts to
tribal courts. Right now we don't have many tribal courts in our
State, but there is a tremendous interest in developing competent
tribal courts, and again with the idea of local
control. We would like to have a mechanism to facilitate the transfer,
as different areas become able to deal with this on the local level. We
would like to have the tools from the Congress in order to have this
Another issue is with voluntary proceedings. That, in
our view, is a major loophole in the Indian Child Welfare Act and one
that must be fixed. There is a tremendous amount of native children
which are leaving native families and communities and going to
non-native families through voluntary proceedings. This must be
Another concern which is raised by a number of native
organiza- tions in written testimony, deals with the issue of notice.
Like I mentioned earlier, we are involved in a State-tribal negotiations
process with the State of Alaska dealing with a lot of procedural
issues. The notice requirement is a crucial component to the agree-
ments. Unless they are aware that the proceedings are taking place,
native organizations and villages aren't going to be able to
We would like to have two tribal notices sent, one
to the villages and also one to the regional association (which may be
providing the technical assistance or the staff work on behalf of the
villages). Alaska is unique in that with all our villages we have
regional as- sociations which provide a lot of services and facilitate
things for the villages. A dual tribal notice would ensure that we have
native representation at State proceedings that affect native children.
The last issue which I wanted to raise deals with the funding
issue in the Indian child welfare grant process. Right now it's on a
competitive process, and basically with a competitive bid process,
you're talking about those groups which are best able to put to-
gether a funding proposal are going to receive ICWA grants.
feel that Indian child welfare issues, are spread throughout our State
and every single one of our areas should be entitled to core funding on
Indian child welfare and should not be competing against one another.
The problems are different, but the needs are still there statewide. We
would like to see a change instead of com- petitive bidding, that there
be a core funding established.
That concludes the concerns that I
would like to address at this time. We will be submitting written
testimony which outlines the specifics on the amendments before you. We
pledge our utmost co- operation, our legal counsel or whatever, to flesh
out whatever amendments that could help to make ICWA work better in
The CHAIRMAN. All of your written
statements will be made part of the record.