BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Native regional corporation has set a path toward a plan to organize tribes into a regional government in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, an official said.

The Calista Corporation established a process for each of 56 tribes to signal their intent to vote on the creation of a government for the western Alaska region, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.

The deadline for interested tribes to respond has been delayed to the end of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The creation of a regional government has been discussed by area residents for almost half a century.

Nunavut Alaska Provisional Government President Mike Williams Sr. welcomed the assistance from Calista to groups like his tribal government, which was created through a constitution written by leaders from about half the tribes in his area.

“Their role is to help facilitate the process,” Williams said. “And we welcome that as tribes because we do not have any resources for travel or getting together, and to provide legal assistance to get this going.”

Williams said the first order of business would be to elect tribal chiefs to positions within the government, which would have powers including member education, policing and resource regulation and development.

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Anchorage-based Calista has more than 33,000 shareholders and is the parent company of more than 30 subsidiary companies in industries including construction, real estate, marine transportation and oil field services, the company’s website said.

Calista would have no role in the regional tribal government after its creation.

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.