D.C. Circuit Confirms that Only Federally Recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages Are Entitled to COVID-19 Emergency Relief Funds

On September 25, 2020, the Court of the Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that state-chartered Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) are not “Indian Tribes” eligible to share in the $8 billion reserved in the CARES Act for Tribal Governments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court explained that ANCs do not satisfy the “terms of art denoting federal recognition of a sovereign Indian tribe”— they do not maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States, and they are not “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.” Therefore, the approximately $500 million in emergency funding set aside by the Department of the Treasury for ANCs must be distributed to federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages to support essential governmental services. Kanji & Katzen, P.L.L.C. represents the lead Plaintiffs: Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Tulalip Tribes, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Akiak Native Community, Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and Aleut Community of St. Paul Island.

The Opinion is here:  https://turtletalk.files.wordpress.com/2020/09/opinion-2.pdf