JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska tribal governments and organizations have asked the state to withdraw a lawsuit alleging a federal agency overstepped its authority by granting an Alaska Native village a special hunting permission during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit opposes the special action granted to the Organized Village of Kake by the federal Office of Subsistence Management, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.
The federal agency granted a request for Kake residents to hunt up to two moose and five male Sitka black-tailed deer.
Alaska Fish & Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said the department was not opposed to Indigenous culture, but did not agree the action was warranted. A state emergency command unit deemed no food security issue had emerged.
Kake officials said food scarcity is not the only issue, noting the village also wants to ensure the health of its elders and provide culturally nourishing food during the pandemic.
Richard Peterson, president of Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, said he was disappointed by the state’s lawsuit.
“I think our state should have better things to do right now than sue its own people and communities during a time of the pandemic,” he said.
A statement issued by Peterson and other tribal leaders called the lawsuit “a disgraceful continuation of outdated, exclusionary, racist management practices.”
“They should be working with us,” Peterson said. “They should’ve been applauding a community, a tribe providing for a community during this time.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.