Residents join campaign to amend Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act


August 22, 2019

Native people in Haines have joined a new effort to amend the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

Native Alaskans in five communities—Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs and Wrangell—say they were unfairly excluded from the act. ANCSA gave 44 million acres of land and nearly $1 billion to Native communities statewide, creating 200 village and 12 regional Native corporations. The fight to amend ANCSA has spanned five decades. 

According to Alaska Natives Without Land, the new campaign seeking to amend ANCSA, there are 4,400 so-called landless shareholders in Southeast. There are 569 landless shareholders of Haines nationwide, 373 of whom reside in Alaska and 57 of whom currently reside in Haines. Their landless status, they say, puts them at a socio-economic disadvantage to communities connected to village corporations.

“We didn’t have the same financial opportunities that someone who belonged to a village corporation had,” said Harriet Brouillette, tribal administrator of the Chilkoot Indian Association. Brouillette is leading the campaign in Haines.

Todd Antioquia, spokesman for the statewide campaign, says there are a few crucial reasons why this effort to amend ANCSA is different from previous ones. “Right now, all three members of the Alaska (congressional) delegation are in support,” he said, of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Dan Sullivan. He said this is also the first time specific parcels of land have been identified that could be allocated to the landless communities. Haines and the other communities each stand to gain more than 23,000 acres of land.

In 1970, before ANCSA was passed, Native people were asked to identify themselves with a Native village, making them shareholders of a would-be corporation. They could identify with the village of their homeland, or the village in which they were presently residing. Those who identified with Haines had no idea that their community would not be allotted land under the act. Neighboring Klukwan did receive a land allotment and formed a village corporation.

“The difference between Haines and Klukwan is that Haines is predominantly non-Native. So when the land claims settlement was going through, for some reason, we were left out, and I’m not even sure why, and no one is positive why,” Brouillette said.

Both of Brouillette’s parents identified with Haines in 1970 because that’s where they were living, she said. Her mother could have identified with her homeland in Kake, and her father could have identified with his homeland in Klukwan. Both those communities formed village corporations after ANCSA.

In 1993, Congress directed the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research to understand why Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs and Wrangell were excluded from ANCSA. The institute found no difference between ‘recognized’ and ‘unrecognized’ communities in Southeast.

During a Congressional hearing in 2015, Rep. Young said that when ANCSA was passed, lumber and timber companies lobbied Congress to exclude communities. “There was an effort put into this Congress at the time not to recognize them, because it might have affected the long-term leases for that timber,” he said.

But Brouillette said she thinks these are speculations, and the decision was arbitrary.

“The history of us losing our land goes back to the 1700s when the Russians invaded,” she said. “(This) is about reclaiming land. It’s about reclaiming our identity. How can you be a Native person if you don’t have land to hunt on, or a tree to build a canoe, or to carve a totem? It’s hard to describe.”


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