Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $889,920)
Kenaitze Indian Tribe (Kenaitze) has long identified a well-functioning tribal justice system as a top community priority. As the lone tribal court on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenaitze Tribal Court hears a variety of cases in service to not only tribal members but also a number of other Alaska Native/American Indian (AN/AI) individuals who have been referred to Kenaitze by their own tribes. All the families Kenaitze serves identify as AN/AI primarily, with some non-AN/AI family members having become involved with cases brought to court. The Tribal Court hears a variety of civil cases, including Child in Need of Aid (CINA, abuse and neglect), domestic/intimate-partner violence (DV/IPV), adoption, guardianship, conservatorship, custody, vulnerable adults, marriage, divorce, and annulment. Kenaitze also operates the Henu Community Wellness Court (Henu), which is an adult-serving, joint-jurisdictional healing-to-wellness court operated by Kenaitze and the Alaska Court System, and the Ts’iłq’u Circle program, which serves as an alternative dispute resolution forum that is open to adults and juveniles and which seeks to harness the power of traditional Dena’ina Athabascan culture and communal ideals to redress harm and restore relations. Continuing to maintain tribal justice system operations and enhance its responsiveness to tribal, AN/AI, and/or other community members is of vital importance to Kenaitze and to all in need of the tribe’s services. The tribe seeks to secure funding for two key positions: the tribal court clerk, whose position provides key administrative support to tribal court judges so they continue to effectively serve the tribal/AN/AI individuals and families that come before Kenaitze’s court, and the circle program coordinator, whose position is fully responsible for the functioning of this community program that is offered as an alternative justice and traditional peacemaking mechanism, which has seen steady growth in programmatic demand since its inception in 2007. Additional requested monies would allow for a robust schedule of training opportunities for Kenaitze’s five tribal court judges, the court clerk, and circle coordinator to acquire and enhance their skills to successfully administer court programming in a culturally appropriate manner that best meets the needs and interests of the tribe.