By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that federal COVID-19 relief funds can go to specially created corporations for Native Alaskans even though they are not officially recognized as tribal governments in a case pitting groups of indigenous Americans against each other.
The justices ruled 6-3 that the native corporations are eligible to receive funding intended for tribal governments under the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. About $533 million in funding hinged on the case's outcome.
Three groups of Native American tribes from other parts of the United States sued in federal court in Washington in April 2020 seeking to prevent what are known as Alaska Native corporations from receiving any of the funds. Among the challengers were the Navajo Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
The federal government backed the Native Alaskans. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)