In response to your story of June 3: U.S. Senators renew push for landless tribe settlement where it is written: “There are a variety of theories about why the five tribes were excluded from ANCSA in the ‘70’s, but no one knows for sure.”

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) is complex, but it does offer insight into reasons why five tribes/groups/villages were deemed ineligible to participate. Section 1610 (b)(3) allows that native villages that were not included in a list of eligible villages (none of the five were) may be considered eligible if the Secretary of the Interior determined by 12/18/1971 that “the village is not of a modern and urban character and a majority of the residents are Native.”

I recall reading a rejection of the local tribe’s petition for eligibility due to Haines being “of a modern and urban character” because it had a water and sewer system and a majority of the residents were not Alaska Native.

These reasons probably held for tribal entities in Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan. It is probable that tribes in Sitka, Kenai, Juneau and Kodiak – communities of uncontested “modern and urban character” with a majority of non-Native residents – were acknowledged in section 1613 (h) due to local political clout pressed on legislators at the time ANCSA was written.

I hope this sheds some light on “why” and “how” tribes/groups/villages were deemed ineligible. It is our legacy to determine the justice of it.


Debra Schnabel