Council Of Athapaskan Tribal Governments

Formed in September 1985, the Council of Athapaskan Tribal Governments (CATG) is comprised of ten tribal governments located in the Yukon Flats, in Northern Alaska. At a traditional gathering memorializing the last traditional chief Esias Loola, the tribal leaders and peoples recognized the need to address the impacts of globalization and colonization affecting their ways of life, and reassert their ability to govern their lands and people. Thus, the Council created an organization that unified the tribes founded on the principles of tribal self-governance, and focus on the empowerment and capacity building initiatives of their local tribal governments.

The tribal governments on the Council consist of Gwich'in and Koyukon tribes. The Arctic, Beaver, Birch Creek, Canyon, Chalkyitsik, Circle, Fort Yukon, Rampart, Stevens, and Venetie comprise this tribal consortium. They inhabit ten remote villages in the Yukon Flats, ranging from populations as low as ten residents in Canyon, to 600 in Fort Yukon. The tribes still maintain a predominantly traditional subsistence lifestyle. Traditional foods such as moose and caribou, ducks and geese, as well as berries and other food plants make up the majority of the diet. The tribes' activities and livelihood depend upon the seasonal changes and landscape. Since there is no road access to the villages, the river system provides the primary means of transportation in the summer months, while travel by snow machine is predominant in the winter months.

The Constitution of the Council of Tribal Athapaskan Governments states that the organization will work toward conserving and protecting tribal land and other resources. Further the Council supports the exercise of tribal powers of self-government. It also aims to aid and support economic development, promote the general welfare of each member tribe and its respective individual members, and preserve and maintain justice. The means to achieving these goals is served through the Council's implementation of programs in the areas of self-governance, programs development and technical assistance, health and education, including accredited tribal university training, environmental health, and natural resource management.

The Council is recognized as nonprofit tribal consortium that administers federal, state, and private foundation grants and contracts through the authorization of the tribally elected chiefs. With central offices in Fort Yukon, the Council employs members from each tribe. It is the largest employer of tribal peoples in the region, with over 60 positions, and manages an annual budget of over four million dollars. The Council is organized through a board of directors, consisting of the tribally elected chiefs from each community. Since the chiefs work directly with their tribal councils and within their respective villages, the input of the community becomes an integral part of the functioning of the Council. Public participation, community outreach, and educational awareness are essential parts of the operation. Board meetings are open to the public and held throughout the villages.

Since its formation almost 20 years ago, the Council of Tribal Athapaskan Governments has successfully provided statewide leadership in the movement of Alaskan tribes to revitalize the spirit of self-government that has sustained the peoples of the Yukon Flats throughout history.

Rachel Olson

See also Self-Government

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