The National Congress of American Indians passed several resolutions on Wednesday, the final day of its mid-year conference in Anchorage, targeting public policy governing Indian lands.
Subsisting in Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is like subsisting in the Asaayi Lake area of New Mexico's Navajo Nation Reservation. Keeping local resources intact is an issue that unites Akiak's Mike Williams Sr. -- chief of the Yupiit Nation -- with members of NCAI, a group of 562 tribal nations which are pushing through a resolution to restore hunting, fishing, and land rights to tribes including Alaska Natives.
"We are ready to help to make sure our fish don't deplete; we have never depleted the resource," Williams said.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering giving tribes more control over traditional lands -- including sacred ground returned this week to the Native Village of Eklutna.
"I hope you all understand what just happened here," Lee Stephan, the village's vice chief, told Eklutna residents on Sunday. "Your village is now given back; it's intact, it's yours."
NCAI President Brian Cladoosby says the Eklutna repatriation is an example of what member tribes hope to see across the nation.
"They just want what they've always had -- it's sad that they can't go out and get the traditional foods that their ancestors have lived on," Cladoosby said. "Tribes were here when you got here, and tribes will be here when you're gone."
Leaders within the congress now hope to teach elected officials the ways of Indian country, in an effort to share the indigenous perspective with them.
"The majority of (tribal members) don't have what we take for granted -- running water, indoor plumbing, electricity," Cladoosby said.
"We need to have that working relationship with respect, to get out of the courts and actually work together," Williams said.
Although the NCAI resolutions haven't made it into legislation, the organization says progress is getting made. President Obama will be the first president to visit Indian country in 15 years when he goes to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota on Friday.