Board Message: Tribes are Stronger Through Partnership

By Robert Beans, Board Chair

Storyknife, March/April 2021 edition

Robert Beans, Calista Board Chair

Robert Beans, Calista Board Chair

For decades Tribes have discussed creating a regional tribal government (RTG). The earliest discussions by Elders occurred prior to ANCSA. It is not an accident that our Elders began this effort considering the knowledge they had of our history and especially the strength all our people and villages have when they are working together.

Calista is merely the most recent organization seeking to support Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal sovereignty. Calista recognizes it has to work with a unified government to best meet its congressional mandate to improve the socio-economic conditions of our people and communities.

Tribes and each tribal member that support the RTG effort each have a vote in the structure and governance of the regional tribal government. As a state-chartered corporation, Calista does not have a vote or a voice in the purely tribal RTG process.

“We respect the autonomy and sovereignty of the Tribes in our Region and encourage other tribal support organizations to do the same.” – Robert Beans, Board Chair

The most recent in-person gatherings were held in 2014 and 2015. Those gatherings were attended by over 40 Tribes and over 40 village corporations with 76 percent of attendees voting in support of creating a regional tribal government. Considering all the factors, a State borough type of regional government was rightly rejected.

One example of Tribal unity is the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, a regional state-charter nonprofit. YKHC shows us how Tribes are stronger through partnership. The YK Region’s tribal healthcare is stronger for it, as evidenced by the incredible success of the COVID vaccination program.

Another example of strong Tribal unity is the regional tribal government of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. They were federally recognized in 1935 and are now a successful example of Alaska regional tribal governance.

Each individual Tribe in the Central Council southeast region maintains independent sovereignty as Central Council works to support every tribal community in the region.

Unity can work to strengthen sovereignty, not take it away. A united Region can potentially secure more funding for critical issues like infrastructure projects, emergency planning, education, public safety and more.

We respect the autonomy and sovereignty of the Tribes in our Region and encourage other tribal support organizations to do the same.


Learn about Regional Tribal Government and the YK Delta history around this effort. See the Regional Tribal Governance Q&A at

Skip to a section of the RTG video:

  1. What is a Regional Tribal Government? Are there any in Alaska? (0:53 – 6:46)
  2. Forming a YK Regional Tribe (6:47 – 7:50)
  3. Whose idea was it to form a Regional Tribe? (7:50 – 9:47)
  4. Nunavut and the YK RTG (9:49 – 11:59)
  5. ANCSA’s role (12:00 – 14:32)
  6. Calista engagement (14:35 – 17:00)
  7. Past RTG efforts (17:05 – 19:22)
  8. Regional non-profit focus (19:24 – 20:37)
  9. Tribe only vote & vote by mail (20:40 – 22:01)
  10. Impact to sovereignty & tribal enrollment (22:02 – 23:16)
  11. Regional elections & strengthening sovereignty (23:19 – 28:47)
  12. Creating jobs in the YK (28:48 – 31:30)
  13. Addressing regional challenges (31:31 – 35:26)
  14. Difference between AVCP & a Regional Tribe (35:30 – 39:01)
  15. Impact to AVCP (39:02 – 40:45)
  16. Can the RTG operate without Federal Recognition? (40:46 – 46:17)
  17. Federal Process & Advocacy (46:18 – 48:35)
  18. Tribal Self Determination & Self-Governance (48:36 – 54:11)
  19. Regional Tribe vs. Borough (54:12 – 1:04:05)
  20. Generating tribal revenue (1:04:06 – 1:06:32)
  21. Funding a Regional Tribe (1:06:33 – 1:08:17)
  22. Ties to Donlin (1:08:27 – 1:09:26)
  23. Taxes (PILT/PILOT) (1:09:27 – 1:12:09)
  24. Downside & Risk (1:12:10 – 1:12:44)
  25. Closing thoughts … (1:12:45 – 1:16:45)