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Ninilchik Native Association, Inc. v. Cook Inlet Region

August 6, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. Sedwick United States District Judge


[Re: Motion at Docket 5]


At docket 5, defendant Cook Inlet Region, Inc. ("CIRI") moves for an order requiring plaintiff Ninilchik Native Association, Inc. ("Ninilchik") to join required*fn1 parties, or in the alternative, for dismissal of this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. At docket 10, Ninilchik opposes the motion. CIRI replies at docket 12. Oral argument was not requested, and it would not assist the court.


Plaintiff Ninilchik is an Alaska Native Village Corporation formed pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, 43 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq. ("ANCSA").

Defendant CIRI is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation formed pursuant to ANCSA. As part of a comprehensive settlement of aboriginal land claims, ANCSA provided for the withdrawal, selection, and conveyance of approximately 44 million acres of federal land within the State of Alaska to Native regional and village corporations.*fn2

Under ANCSA, the United States Department of the Interior ("Interior") was mandated to withdraw all available public lands in a township in which any Native village was located, as well as all public lands in two concentric rings of townships around each village.*fn3 Section 12(a) of ANCSA (43 U.S.C. § 1611(a)) authorized each village to select a designated number of acres from these withdrawn lands for conveyance to the village corporation ("§ 12(a) selections").*fn4 Section 12(b) of ANCSA (43 U.S.C. § 1611(b)) required Interior to allocate additional lands to each regional corporation on the basis of Native population.*fn5 The regional corporations were then required to distribute those § 12(b) lands among their constituent village corporations.*fn6

Ninilchik is a village corporation within the Cook Inlet region of Alaska.*fn7 CIRI is the regional corporation for the Cook Inlet region.*fn8 There are other Native corporations and associations relevant to this dispute that are also located within the Cook Inlet region, including: Alexander Creek Native Association, Inc., Chickaloon-Moose Creek Native Association, Inc., Knikatnu, Inc., Salamatof Native Association, Inc., Seldovia Native Association, Inc., and Tyonek Native Corporation (the "other villages").*fn9

ANCSA mandated that all Alaska Native villages make their § 12(a) land selections by December 1974. However, due to uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of two villages in the Cook Inlet region, Interior did not specifically designate land withdrawals for each village, and instead withdrew a single block of land for the group of villages in this region, thus requiring the villages to compete for the same land.*fn10 In response, the villages made their § 12(a) selections in a series of rounds, similar to a professional sports draft.*fn11 To resolve the uncertainty about the eligibility of two of the villages, all of the villages conducted four distinct rounds selections, which were labeled Methods A, B, C, and D.*fn12 Each round was based upon a mutually exclusive hypothetical with respect to the eligibility for village status of Alexander Creek and Salamatof.*fn13 The villages filed their § 12(a) selections with Interior by the December 1974 deadline.*fn14

In May 1976, the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") rejected many of the § 12(a) selection claims filed by the village corporations in the Cook Inlet region.*fn15

Because ANCSA contained no provision authorizing re-submission of new selections after the 1974 statutory deadline, the villages feared they would lose significant portions of their § 12(a) entitlements.*fn16 As a result, the villages authorized CIRI, through an agreement titled the "12(a) Conveyance Agreement," to pursue a legislative solution that would restore the villages' § 12(a) entitlements.*fn17 The 12(a) Conveyance Agreement proposed that CIRI would receive title to the lands from the United States and subsequently reconvey those lands to the village corporations guided by a set of standards.*fn18 The 12(a) Conveyance Agreement states, "[u]nless the affected village corporations otherwise agree, their § 12(a) selections, including the specific tract selected and the priorities listed in those selections, shall govern."*fn19

In August 1976, CIRI and Interior entered into an agreement known as the "Deficiency Agreement."*fn20 The Deficiency Agreement proposed the transfer of withdrawn lands from the federal government to CIRI for retransfer to the village corporations.*fn21 The Deficiency Agreement partitioned lands eligible for transfer into two separate appendices: Appendix A and Appendix C.*fn22 Due to this partitioning, the villages' § 12(a) selection lands from the operative Method B round were divided between Appendices A and C of the Deficiency Agreement.*fn23

In November 1986, the federal government conveyed to CIRI lands described in Appendix A of the Deficiency Agreement.*fn24 After CIRI reconveyed to the villages their § 12(a) selections from those listed in Appendix A, it requested that Interior convey the villages' § 12(a) selections from the land listed in Appendix C.*fn25 However, Interior notified CIRI that pursuant to the Deficiency Agreement, it was not entitled to conveyance of Appendix C lands because there were Appendix A lands that remained unselected, and Appendix C lands could not become available until all Appendix A lands were distributed.*fn26 Despite Interior's refusal to convey Appendix C lands to CIRI, all of the villages in the region, except Ninilchik, were able to fulfill their § 12(a) entitlements because the § 12(a) ...

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