CIRI asks court to resolve village land entitlement issues

Land entitlements under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) for CIRI and its villages are affected by a complex collection of agreements, public laws and court rulings dating back as far as 1975. CIRI is still seeking coordinated action from its villages on how to complete certain ANCSA 12(a) and 12(b) land conveyances after more than 25 years. Following significant efforts by CIRI and the villages to reach an agreement, the time has come for CIRI to seek the assistance of the federal courts in deciding upon a method and procedure for village land conveyance.

CIRI and its villages restarted regular entitlement meetings in 2006, following the outcome of an earlier federal court case (known as the “Appendix C” litigation) when the pool of lands from which the villages could select their remaining entitlement became known. There is no dispute among CIRI or its villages that CIRI is required to convey certain lands to settle the villages’ respective individual land entitlements. Nor is there any dispute as to the general area from which those lands are to be conveyed, that is, lands in the Talkeetna Mountains and on the west side of Cook Inlet that are referred to as the “Appendix A” lands. Rather, the sole outstanding question is which Appendix A lands go to which village.

CIRI has repeatedly advised the villages it has a strong desire to meet its obligations to convey the Appendix A lands, and to assist the villages in coming to an agreed-to procedure for parcel selection and conveyance.

During 2008 CIRI temporarily withdrew from the ongoing meetings at the request of the villages while they attempted to achieve consensus. It is CIRI’s understanding that the villages came very close to achieving consensus on a selection methodology with five of the six villages in agreement. However, one village that does not have pre-established, prioritized selections sufficient to satisfy its 12(a) entitlement did not agree to the proposed selection and conveyance process.

The villages’ impasse prompted CIRI to seek advice on a mechanism that would ensure this matter is finally resolved. That mechanism is called an “Interpleader Action,” a legal mechanism by which CIRI will formally seek guidance from the federal courts as to a selection and conveyance process for the villages. The CIRI Board of Directors was briefed on this approach and supports the filing of an Interpleader Action.

CIRI hopes this action will ultimately provide for a binding process that will allow the village lands to be conveyed. CIRI is committed to conveying the lands it holds for the villages and appreciates the time and commitment the villages have made over the course of the last two years to try to settle this matter. The villages can still work toward a settlement of this process but the time has come to put this matter into a forum that has the requisite authority to ensure a timely and binding outcome.