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The Corporate Whale: ANCSA, The First 10 Years Program

Program 2 of 10
McPherson, Karen Michel 1982

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5...4...3...2...1. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE AFN, THIS IS THE WHITE HOUSE IN WASHINGTON CALLING. I PRESENT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES...

[President Nixon] I APPRECIATE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO EXTEND MY GREETINGS AND BEST WISHES TO THE CONVENTION OF THE ALASKA FEDERATION OF NATIVES. I WANT YOU TO BE AMONG THE FIRST TO KNOW THAT I HAVE JUST SIGNED THE ALASKA NATIVE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT. THIS IS A MILESTONE IN ALASKA'S HISTORY.

[Narrator] THE CORPORATE WHALE: ANCSA, THE FIRST 10 YEARS.

[] The Reverend Merculieff from St. George Island...

This land of Alaska, which thou gave to our ancestors, who have come and gone before us, is now being handed to us a second time, by the Act of the United States Congress and our untiring efforts. A second chance is given to us by thee to be the new custodians and caretakers.

THAT SECOND CHANCE BEGAN ON DECEMBER 18, 1971, WHEN PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON SIGNED INTO LAW THE ALASKA NATIVE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT, ANCSA; A BILL GRANTING ALASKA NATIVES 965.2 MILLION DOLLARS AND NEARLY 44 MILLION ACRES OF LAND IN EXCHANGE FOR EXTINGUISHING ABORIGINAL CLAIMS TO THAT LAND. AN EXCHANGE THAT TOOK YEARS OF DIFFICULT NEGOTIATIONS TO GET THROUGH CONGRESS, AND THAT IS NOW TAKING YEARS OF DIFFICULT NEGOTIATIONS TO IMPLEMENT. IMPERFECT AS ANCSA MAY BE, LEADERS INVOLVED IN THE FIGHT FOR A SETTLEMENT GENERALLY AGREE THAT GIVEN THE TIMES, THE BILL IS AS GOOD AS A SOLUTION TO THE LAND CLAIMS PROBLEM AS COULD BE NEGOTIATED.

IN 1971, MORRIS THOMPSON, NOW A VICE-PRESIDENT OF A NATIVE REGIONAL CORPORATION, DOYON LIMITED, SERVED AS AREA DIRECTOR FOR THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS OF ALASKA. LATER HE MOVED TO WASHINGTON, D.C., AND BECAME COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS BETWEEN 1973 AND 1976.

Since 1976 and into the 80s, we have seen for the first time Indian legislation brought to the floor of Congress and voted down overwhelmingly. And I think that will indicate that there has been a shift in the mood in Congress. From one of doing justice, equity, and [a few of] conscious votes, in some instances, to one of sharp questioning and closer examination of legislation effecting Indian people. I think had the Settlement Act come eight to ten years later, it would...yes...definitely been much more restrictive.

BOTH RESTRICTIVE PROVISIONS INCLUDED IN THE ACT, WHAT THE ALASKA NATIVE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT IS, AND HOW IT DIVIDES UP THE LAND AND THE MONEY WILL BE DISCUSSED IN THIS PROGRAM, THE SECOND IN A TEN PART SERIES: THE CORPORATE WHALE.

ØDividin' the maktak is they way it's always been
Dividin' the maktak between family and friends
We're sailin' toward to future, we're anchored in the past
Rich in our tradition, our ways will surely last Ø

WITH THE PASSAGE OF THE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT, THERE WERE NEW WAYS AND OTHER TRADITIONS TO LEARN TO MAKE THE PROMISE INHERENT IN THE PAPER, TRANSLATE INTO THE ENTITLEMENT THAT GUARANTEED. ALREADY ALASKA NATIVES HAVE BEEN FORCED TO MAKE RAPID CHANGES, AS RUSSIANS, AMERICANS, CANADIANS, AND EUROPEANS DISCOVERED AND EXPLORED ALASKA. AND UNDER ANCSA, MORE CHANGES WERE REQUIRED. IN 1966, WILLIE HENSLEY, WHILE A STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA, AUTHORED A PAPER ENTITLED, "WHAT RIGHT TO LAND HAVE THE ALASKA NATIVES?" NOW TEN YEARS AFTER THOSE RIGHTS BECAME LAW, HENSLEY IS PRESIDENT OF NANA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, A NATIVE CORPORATION SUBSIDARY, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE UNITY BANK ALASKA...

There's been a great deal of confusion in our people's minds as to what to do, the entire inner-world, that is the..uh..the linguistic world, the psychological world, the spiritual world, the legal world...you know...the economic world. The whole world of our peoples up here [have and/or other] concentrated period of time they've had to change.

CHANGES THAT LEADERS WERE CHARGED WITH EXPLAINING. NOT AN EASY TASK WITH A DENSELY PACKED PIECE OF LEGISLATION, IN A LANGUAGE THAT IS NOT ALWAYS EASY TO INTERPRET. ESPECIALLY TO PEOPLE LIVING IN VILLAGES THAT MAY NOT BE CONNECTED BY ROADS, BUT PERHAPS ONLY ONE, NOT-ALWAYS-IN-SERVICE, TELEPHONE FOR TWO OR THREE HUNDRED PEOPLE. AND WHOSE PRIMARY LANGUAGE MAY BE YUP'IK, OR IÑUPIAQ, OR GWICH'IN, NOT ENGLISH. JOHN SACKETT IS A STATE SENATOR AND PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD FOR ONE OF THE LARGEST NATIVE REGIONAL CORPORATIONS, DOYON LIMITED...

There's a difficulty in explaining it to not only the shareholders, but to us as leaders.Uh...when you recognize that it's taken ten years to get this far, the amount of time that it took to learn during the ten year period is phenomenal for the leaders. To understand all the in...intricacies of the Act and of corporations in general. And it's not anything that anybody can understand immediately. We have to..wr..put it out and try and explain it in common language.

LEE GORSUCH WAS GIVEN THE TASK EARLIER ON OF EXPLAINING ANCSA. HE CAME ALASKA IN 1970 AS AN ECONOMIC PLANNER SPONSORED BY THE FORD FOUNDATION. TODAY HE IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA'S INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH. IN THE INTERIM, HE AUTHORED A BOOK, DISTRIBUTED TO ALL REGIONAL AND VILLAGE CORPORATIONS, IMPLEMENTING THE ALASKA NATIVE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT.

The Land Claims go with three major kinds of issues. The one was the amount of land that the Native people of Alaska were going to be granted as a part of the settlement. A second was the amount of money they would receive as a...essentially what was regard to be remuneration or a cash settlement for the lands that were taken. And the third was the...the organizations that were going to be created through which the money would flow to individuals and organizations...um...following, by and large, the..the ethnic lines of...of the cultural groups in Alaska.

On the first issue, the Native corporations that were subsequently created were going to receive 40 million acres of land. Subsequently, under various options that the groups had that were on large reservations that had the choice of either taking land under the terms of the settlement or simply taking the reservation lands, such as the Venetie and Tetlin and so forth. The actual amount of land...uh...to be conveyed I think is now approximately 44 million acres rather than the 40 million acres. And that land [this day] was going to be divided up into different categories: village corporations would get so much, regional corporations would get so much, and individuals would get essentially the land they occupy for their homesite or campsite or, in some cases, manufacturing site.

So the money was roughly divided among the corporations, and those three different types of...of groups are regional, village, and individuals. There were also provisions for groups of individuals who weren't large enough to certify the village they received some land. There was also some additional land set aside for historical sites, cemeteries and what have you. The money was essentially $962.5 million to be paid out over 11 years on a scheduled payment. And those payments basically have proceeded pretty much on course with the exception with the State of Alaska accelerated its contributions which amounted to $500 million or essentially half of the cash settlement which to be paid by the State of Alaska. And the State of Alaska, year before last, accelerated its contribution and essentially paid off its indebtedness to the Alaska Native corporation. So that, as of today, all the money that was to be paid out to the Native corporations, the full $962.5 million, has been paid. And no more money will be received by the corporations as a result of...of the Claims Settlement Act cash settlement.

The third, and important element, was the organization of how people were going to benefit from this land and money. And the Act essentially created regional corporations that would be for-profit. And it authorized the creation of what became 13 corporations, 12 following the broad cultural groups within Alaska with the provision of a 13th regional corporation could be created for the benefit of Alaska Natives irrespective of their cultural ties of the [topside] state of Alaska. The second class of corporations were to be village corporations. And essentially those places that had 25 or more Alaska Natives, the majority of all the residents of the community who happen to be Native, would be eligible to be certified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a Native village. And they were going to receive essentially cash and land as a part of their entitlement. Individuals who didn't belong to a particular village, that lives, say, for example, in Anchorage or Fairbanks, those individuals would receive their equivalent share of the cash, that otherwise went to the village corporation, directly as an individual. And the key to the whole thing in terms of creating these corporations was an enrollment process where by everyone who is 1/4 blood Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo, or any combination, who had been living at the time which the Settlement Act passed was entitled to enroll or to go on the membership roll. And when you signed up on a membership roll, you indicated where your home was or where you regard your home to be. And that began to determine whether or not you were going to be a member of a village corporation and a regional corporation. And so the membership of the village and regional corporation became automatically determined on the basis of the enrollment. And that was essentially accomplished in about a two year period of time, after which the corporations were off and running.

ØLet my people dance
Let my people sing
Let my people dance
Let their voices ring Ø

GETTING THE CORPORATIONS RUNNING WASN'T SO SIMPLE. THE CRITICAL TASK OF COMPILING THE ROLL OF ALASKA NATIVES ELIGIBLE UNDER THE ALASKA NATIVE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT, THE CORPORATE SHAREHOLDERS, FELL TO THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. MORE THAN 76,000 INDIANS, ESKIMOS, AND ALEUTS ENROLLED, DUE IN PART TO AN AGGRESSIVE AD CAMPAIGN. FORMER BIA COMMISSIONER, MORRIS THOMPSON...

We had..uh..public service announcements at half-times in the football games...uh..at the Super Bowl. We had Cher Bono and, then, the late Chief Dan George make spots for us that appeared in print, in newspapers. We held press conferences..uh..up and down the West Coast. Took Alaskan personalities up and down the West Coast to be on talk shows, to give interviews, to appear at Indian centers and...and use some rather innovative methods of..of seeking out Alaska Natives.

NATIVE, THAT IS, AS DEFINED BY THE ACT. A DEFINITION THAT EXCLUDES THOSE BORN AFTER DECEMBER 18, 1971, THE DATE ANCSA WAS SIGNED INTO LAW. LEE GORSUCH...

There were clearly individuals who felt that somehow by having established a single date, that essentially all children who would be born after that date of Native ancestry, Native blood, would not be a member per se of the corporations, unless they inherited stock and became through inheritance members of the corporations. And..uh..I think there are many people who felt that was a potential weakness and just became an administrative convenience for deciding how to carve up the money, how to decide the amount of land to allocate, and that...uh..it built in certainty to what otherwise could have been a very uncertain and sticky situation.

THE ALASKA NATIVE LAND CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT CONSISTENTLY FINDS ITS OWN WAY TO AVOID STICKY SITUATIONS AND DISTRIBUTE BENEFITS, RATHER THAN MIMICKING OTHER INDIAN LEGISLATIONS. PARTLY FOR THAT REASON, ANCSA HAS OFTEN BEEN CALLED A "SOCIAL EXPERIMENT". WILLIE HENSLEY...

Who in hell wants to experiment with the survival of the people? You know, it might be an experiment for congressional staffers and congressmen and..and bureaucrats. But, you know, the way I look at it, it's a...it was either "lose it all", that is lose complete control of our space; or do the best you can, you know, in a situation which you did not control, [eventual] outcome. And when I look around the world and see what people have to do to survive, I think, "God, it's tough up here, but, geesh, we got so much more than other people do." And I think we have to recognize that and build on that.

YOU'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THE CORPORATE WHALE: ANCSA, THE FIRST 10 YEARS. THE SECOND PROGRAM IN A TEN PART SERIES WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY KAREN MICHEL MCPHERSON, WITH TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FROM PHILLIP KAKOWSKI (sp?). FUNDING WAS PROVIDED BY KUAC SPONSORS AND THE ALASKA NATIVE HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM OF THE COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA.

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE HISTORICAL TAPE COLLECTION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ARCHIVES AND MUSICIANS HERBIE VENT, BUDDY TABOR, AND ECKLINE TEE.

 

 

Part 1
"This 10 part series, The Corporate Whale, will listen to some of the events leading to the Land Claims Settlement, the mechanisms that were employed to manage the Act, government agencies, and Native corporations, hear how leaders assess the first 10 years, and predictions for 1991."

Part 2
"Both restrictive provisions included in the Act, what the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement is, and how it divides up the land and the money will be discussed in this program, the second in a ten part series: The Corporate Whale."

Part 3
"In this program, the third in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, Native leaders and others involved with the framing of the Land Claims Settlement give some of their thoughts on the corporate concept and how well that mechanism works for dividing the benefits of ANCSA: The Whale."

Part 4
"This program is the fourth in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale: ANCSA, The First Ten Years. Agency representatives and Native corporation leaders will give their perspectives on the land's aspect of the Land Claims Settlement."

Part 5
"In this program, the fifth in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, leaders of Sealaska and Cook Inlet Region, Inc., will profile their activities in dividing the benefits of ANCSA into profits for shareholders."

Part 6
"In this program, the sixth in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, leaders from NANA, the Northwest Alaska Native Association region, and Calista Corporation will profile their corporation's activities in managing ANCSA's benefit."

Part 7
"Both the Land Loss Formula and 7(i), the revenue sharing provision, were intended to be equalizers in the Settlement providing resource revenues to regions without rich lands and additional land to those without large populations. This program, the seventh in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, will examine two regional corporations particularly affected by the provisions, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation in the north and Doyon Limited in the interior."

Part 8
"In this program, the eighth in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, village and regional corporation leaders will discuss centered approaches to managing ANCSA's land and money entitlements, and impact."

Part 9
"This program, a ninth in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, will examine the role of the Alaska Federation of Natives and its efforts to survive and continue to be a unifying body for the corporations who manage ANCSA's benefits."

Part 10
"In this program, the last in a ten part series, The Corporate Whale, leaders involved in land claims implementation assess the bill that Barrow activist Charlie Edwardsen, Jr., Etok, once referred to as 'a new harpoon.'"

Alaska Native Knowledge Network is responsible for the transcription of this series. We would like to humbly apologize for any misspellings in advance.

 

 

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Last modified August 14, 2006