Breakfast Celebration, Sponsored by Commonwealth North
Moderator: E. Lee Gorsuch
Speakers: Byron Mallott, Julie Kitka, Matthew Nicolai, Willie Hensley
E. Lee Gorsuch: I'd like to introduce the head table. A. J. McClanahan, as most of you know as a previous Commonwealth North presenter, is the historian for CIRI Corporation. She has just completed her second book and it's entitled A Reference In Time. It will be available at the book stores soon.
|E. Lee Gorsuch
You know, of course, our founder, former governor and Secretary of the Interior at the time the Native Land Claims passed, Governor Walter Hickel.
Next to the governor is Byron Mallott. Byron was the CEO of Sealaska Corporation in SE Alaska and is president of the First Alaskans Foundation. He has also held a variety of positions serving the State as the first commissioner of the Department of Community and Regional Affairs and as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.
Sitting next to Byron is Matthew Nicolai, a Commonwealth North member who is currently serving as the CEO for one of the in-state 12 Regional Corporations, Calista.
Julie Kitka is on her way. Julie is the current president of the Alaska Federation of Natives and has done an astounding job of keeping that position coherent, alive, functioning, and addressing the major public policy issues that the Native community continues to face.
To my immediate right is Willie Hensley. Willie was a forerunner, who, as a student at the University, developed a position paper on the Alaska Native Land Claims that became the foundation for formulating the settlement of Native land claims. Willie went on to serve with distinction in the State Senate. He also headed up one of the corporations, NANA, from his home region in Kotzebue, and is currently representing Alyeska Pipeline back in Washington, D.C. Willie, we're delighted you were able to come back to join us.
So, if you would, please extend a warm welcome to our head table. I do have a copy of the book and if you'd like to see it on your on way out.
This is the 30th anniversary of when President Nixon signed into law the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the people we have at the podium today were very active and instrumental in moving that legislation forward. Alaska often times ignores some of its own history. Many of us know this was an important piece of legislation in the State of Alaska, simply because of its size and magnitude, but also in terms of its significance to the people of Alaska, most particularly Alaska Native people. Few recognize this was also legislation of national and international significance. I truly believe it was the watershed for how United States government interfaces with Native American people and actually led to a broad expansion of the Indian Education Act, the Indian Finance Act, the Self-Determination Act and a suite of other pieces of legislation. I know that indigenous groups around the world carefully study the elements of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act and try to build upon some of its experiences and provisions. It's an extremely important piece of public policy.
As an organization that studies public policy it seemed appropriate that we spend time on this 30th anniversary to hear from some of those who were instrumental in the advocacy, politics, enactment, and implementation of this important piece of legislation. We had scripted a number of questions for each of our panelists, but we recognize that each of them may well wish to say more. All I request from the panel members is they keep their remarks to about three to five minutes so we can actually have a discussion after each has had a chance to make some opening remarks.
We've asked a little about the history, some of the current status, its implementation and then its future, and we'd like to ask Willie Hensley to lead off by talking about the original basis for the Native Land Claims, step back into the original treaty and why it took so long for it to actually come to some kind of resolution. As far as he was concerned, we'd like to know what were some of the major terms of the Settlement Act and what is it that Alaska Natives sought that the Settlement Act did not actually achieve. So, three questions in one, Willie.