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Unalaska’s city, tribe, and Native corporation re-up trilateral agreement to cooperate on community issues

Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. of the city, Tribal President Dennis Robinson from the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, and the Ounalashka Corporation's interim CEO Natalie Cale signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organizations.
Theo Greenly
The agreement was signed by Unalaska Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr., Qawalangin Tribal President Dennis Robinson, and Ounalashka Corp. interim CEO Natalie Cale on behalf of their respective organizations.

Leaders from the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, the Ounalashka Corp., and the City of Unalaska met last week to renew their pledge to work together.

The organizations formally joined forces in 2020 when they signed a trilateral agreement to secure a contract with the military to evaluate the city’s infrastructure needs.

The agreement’s scope has widened since then, and the leaders said Wednesday's meeting served as a reaffirmation of the groups’ shared commitment to the community.

Tribal President Dennis Robinson signed the agreement on behalf of the tribe. He said it can be a problem when community organizations disagree. If a tribe and city aren’t on the same page, Robinson said it can confuse state and federal legislators during lobbying trips.

“That leaves the legislators in the lurch and not being able to make any decisions for the community at all,” he said. “So everybody loses.”

Bil Homka was recently hired as Unalaska’s city manager after serving for several months as assistant city manager. He told those in attendance at the signing that he was skeptical of the trilateral agreement at first — even though it sounded good on paper, he doubted it would offer any real leverage. But he saw its value during the city’s lobbying trip to Juneau in March.

“It came up every time that we met people, how they're really amazed how the three organizations are working together,” Homka said.

Natalie Cale is interim CEO for the Ounalashka Corp. She says the agreement can help the community receive grant money for large projects, such as a dock improvement project the tribe recently received funding for.

“One of the other benefits to all of us working together is that, right now, it's historical as far as the number of grants that are available,” said Cale. “And sometimes the tribe is the eligible entity or applicant. Sometimes the city is.”

The agreement serves mainly as a ceremonial pledge. It doesn’t provide much legal framework to ensure the organizations work together, and they are not obligated to do so. The organizations agreed to meet monthly for the next year.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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