A new committee in the Alaska House of Representatives is the first ever to be tasked with advancing strategic partnerships between Alaska Native tribes and state government, according to a release from the House Majority Monday.

The House Special Committee on Tribal Affairs will be chaired by Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, Yup'ik, D-Bethel.

“Collaborating with our federally-recognized tribes helps bridge historical and political divisions while elevating opportunities to shape policies and programs that incorporate local and traditional knowledge,” Zulkosky said. “I am eager for the opportunity to chair this historic committee and pursue opportunities to move Alaska forward together.”

Bryce Edgmon, Aleut, I-Dillingham, is the state's first Alaska Native speaker of the house and says creation of this kind of committee has long been a goal of his.

“We’ve never had a committee to deal solely with tribal issues in the Legislature,” Edgmon said. “This is not just about tribal compacting; it is about basic and critical issues like health, children’s services, law enforcement, economic development, and other needs that can be met at the village level.”

The House formed the new committee by passing House Resolution 5 with a 37-1 vote. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, cast the sole nay vote.

Like all special committees, this one is authorized for the duration of the current legislative session, ending January 2021.

Committee members are John Lincoln, Inupiaq, D-Kotzebue, Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, Dave Telerico, R-Healy, and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

Steve Quinn contributed to this report.

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