Jones Hotch Jr. is the tribal council president of the Chilkat Indian Village in Klukwan. (Emily Files)

Jones Hotch Jr. is the vice president of the tribal council of the Chilkat Indian Village in Klukwan. (Emily Files)

The Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan is one of three native groups accusing the Dunleavy administration of eroding government-to-government relations with Alaska Native Tribes. 

Department of Natural Resources commissioner Corri Feige recently denied a request from Chilkat Indian Village to set up a consultation process regarding the Palmer Project, a mineral exploration site located 17 miles west of Klukwan.  

Commissioner Feige denied a similar request for consultation on the Donlin Gold Mine Project from the Orutsararmiut Native Council.

In his letter to the tribal council, Commissioner Feige wrote that “DNR must be cautious not to undermine the legally-required public notice and comment periods used for collecting input” for state permitting decisions.

In a press release from Native Peoples Action, Inc. Tribal Council President Kimberly Strong wrote the denial by Feige is a shift in treatment that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and respect for the first people of Alaska. The press release cites the 2001 Millenium Agreement, which acknowledges mutual sovereignty between the state and tribes. It calls for improved communication between them to resolve conflicts.

However, in his letter Commissioner Feige says that the agreement was a policy of former Governor Tony Knowles that did not obligate future administrations.

Canadian mineral company Constantine Metal Resources recently submitted permit applications for the second phase of exploration at the Palmer Project. The Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan has challenged permitting decisions for the project in the past due to concerns about the impact that mining could have on the surrounding watershed and the village’s traditional food sources.