[JURIST] A federal appeals court on Friday rejected [opinion, PDF] the Alaskan government’s challenge in a case determining the right of Alaskan tribes to place land in a federal trust. Alaskan tribes originally sued [KTOO report] the Department of the Interior [official website] in 2007 to place land in a trust. Though the Interior Department found that denying such rights would be discriminatory, the state nevertheless proceeded with challenging Alaskan tribes in the matter. Following the court’s ruling, Alaskan tribes will be able to seek “Indian Country” status from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) [official website] and obtain the protections afforded to ordinary reservation lands in the Lower 48. The BIA is expected to publish trust land application within the next 30 days.
The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In May Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett stated [JURIST report] it would drop its objector status against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In April JURIST Guest Columnist Dwight Newman of the University of Saskatchewan discussed [JURIST op-ed] what is happening with recent leave decisions related to Indigenous rights and Canadian energy regulation. In March Canadian indigenous people, including Inuits of Nunavut and the Chippewa, were granted [JURIST report] an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, challenging the use of seismic testing to find natural gas under the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. In February experts from the UN and the Inter-American human rights systems urged [JURIST report] Canada to address the “root causes” of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in that country.