Former officials in an Alaska Native village are refusing to relinquish their old office and tribal records, despite a federal appeals panel’s finding that they’re no longer in charge.
The flood-prone village is among Alaska’s most eroded communities. But the power dispute stalled millions of dollars in government funds for efforts to physically move the village to higher ground 9 miles from the current site, 480 miles west of Anchorage.
Newtok’s relocation coordinator Romy Cadiente, who is part of the new regime, said the old council’s refusal to acknowledge the dispute’s resolution is “not helping” the huge task of relocating.
“It’s sad that we have to still go through this process when it’s already been decided,” Cadiente said. “It’s time to move on.”
The new tribal council is seeking the legal help from troopers because it would be contrary to Yup’ik values to engage in such “self-help” as forcibly obtaining the office and records themselves, according to their attorney, Michael Walleri, who described the Yup’ik culture as very pacific. The new leadership also is following another aspect of Yup’ik culture in the patience it has shown toward the former leaders, Walleri said.
“This will be handled in a manner consistent with those Yup’ik values,” he said. “That may frustrate a lot of people, but what is the purpose of saving the village if you surrender who you are?”