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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Interviews
John Havelock

John Havelock was Attorney General for the state of Alaska from 1970-1973, after which he moved to Anchorage as a practicing attorney. Mr. Havelock worked as legal council for Native people and organizations in a variety of arenas both before and after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Ronald Spatz: Describe your background and involvement with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

John Havelock: I came to Alaska directly after graduating from Harvard Law School. My first employment was as an assistant attorney general. This was in 1959, and the situation being the way it was, I rose very rapidly in two years. I was the deputy attorney general for the state. This involved living in Juneau and I got to know a number of Tlingits and even a few Haidas while I was living there. I got to know Native people.

John Havelock
My involvement with the Settlement Act didn't really start until 1964 when I resigned from the state and went up to Anchorage and joined a law firm that was sort of formed there, Ely, Guess, Rudd and Havelock, the remains of which today are Guess and Rudd. Gene Guess came out of law school, and he made a lot of contacts in the Native community through legislators in rural areas. Maybe Gene had statewide ambition at one point. He died young. He helped introduce me to some people. I met Emil Notti, Nick Gray and some others.

We were concerned with the overall circumstances of the Native people. It was not just a land claims thing, it was a mixed question of social and economic circumstances. I did the incorporation part for Cook Inlet Native Association, which was through the organization that started the political organization, Native claims eventually led to AFN and the rest. I also did a little bit of work on the Northwest Native Association, which became where NANA is now. And one of the associates in my firm, a man named Herb Sole, was dispatched with Willie to go up there and do the organization onsite. As the Claims movement grew, I came along with it as an occasional advisor on legal matters.

A group of people was saying we ought to have somebody run for Lieutenant Governor. Emil and John Borbridge and Roger Lang said it ought to be Emil. I became Emil's campaign manager. That catapulted me, to some extent, into a recognizable figure in the Settlement Act process. Then when Egan was running, Emil was running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket. I got to reacquaint myself with him; I had known him when I was deputy attorney general, and the first appointment he made was me.

I think it was somewhat symbolic, because I was identified with Native claims. The job was to settle the Native claims. In the process that followed, of course, Egan was a master of these things and I wasn't telling him what to do at all. Egan was doing what he thought was appropriate. I did some speech writing for him, some errands for him, some lobbying for him and these sort of things. I participated in a number of the meetings in Washington, D.C., particularly of government executives, where we talked about the ingredients for the Settlement Act.

Ronald Spatz: What was your title?

John Havelock: I was attorney general at that time.

Ronald Spatz: So you were charged with overseeing the entire legal picture of the Settlement Claims Act?

John Havelock: Yes, I came from the point of view of the state. Remember this is a Congressional enactment, so the big players were the Congressional Delegation. Egan spoke more than anybody else, particularly because he was a major figure in Alaska politics who fathered the Constitutional convention. He also had been a representative of the state in Washington for years, and he knew all the Congressmen on a first-name basis, and they all respected him. I had some legal oversight, but it wasn't our act; it wasn't a state act. It was in the Committees: Senator Jackson's committee, Senator Aspinall's committee and the subcommittee of Indian Affairs, which was run by Representative Hailey.

Ronald Spatz: What were the obstacles in Alaska that Egan faced? and the obstacles that Hickel faced later?

John Havelock: There was sort a two-track approach. That is, first of all, this is a Congressional enactment. That involved stirring the national conscience, working with national legislatures, the Congress of the United States. At the same time, the non-Native people of Alaska had to be brought along. It wasn't going to work if the non-Native people of Alaska were totally hostile to the act. Back in the sixties, I spent some time with Lowell Thomas, Jr., who organized support for settlement and advocated a fair and just settlement, particularly among religious groups. He emphasized the justice part of it without getting into any particular formulas.

People who were interested in rural development from a non-Native perspective, particularly miners -- people with had dreams of homesteading -- were worried that all these rights would cut off entry to mining. There was a strong lobby, and they were influential in persuading businessmen in the various Chambers of Commerce and the more conservative business community to be against this act and to be against any kind of form of state participation. So, the log jam, in a sense, was broken.

Two things broke the opposition. One was Egan won the election of 1970, beating Governor Miller who had succeeded Wally Hickel when he went to Washington. Miller had an unreconstructed colonial mentality. Egan said, "We will have a just and fair settlement." He was committed to doing it, and so the state was committed. The voters, by voting him in, had shown their commitment too.

The other thing you might say broke the back of the opposition was when a Patton, I guess was his name, who was the Corporate Chief of the Alyeska Pipeline project said there wasn't going to be any pipeline until this Settlement Act was adopted. Suddenly all of these businessmen went, "Ooh," because they were all waiting on the pipeline for contract work and so on.

Ronald Spatz: What about Wally Hickel? He expressed concerns, perhaps opposition, and then he went to Washington.

John Havelock: He went both ways as you say. I think in his heart he would have liked to have a settlement, but Wally's first priority was always development. The Settlement Act couldn't have come about the way it did if there had not been a land freeze, so Governor Hickel's first priority was to break the land freeze.

I'll give you an anecdote about Wally Hickel. When he was Secretary of Interior and had been in office for a short period of time, he went to Washington to announce that he was going to lift the land freeze. I went with Governor Egan to see him, and we were brought into his enormous office, sort of a Mussolini office. They knew how to build an office for the secretary. Secretary Hickel got up from his desk in the middle of this great room and started coming towards us. He greeted us, and there were a couple of aides behind him and Pat Ryan, who I knew, and Hickel started off by saying, "Governor, 'I'm going to have that land freeze lifted within 90 days.' " I looked over his shoulder and there was Pat Ryan standing by him going, "No way."

Ronald Spatz: Where do you see ANCSA now? What is your assessment after 30 years?

John Havelock: It certainly is better than most people hoped for at the time. The fact that there are flaws in it and things that need to be done to it doesn't mean it wasn't a success, particularly when you think of the alternative -- a Land Claims settlement of far less value. Through much of the negotiations, the numbers that were being talked about were much smaller. The resistance of the Congress to large grants of land was enormous, but the environmental movement had not yet organized to the extent where they could have blocked this kind of a land claim. Ten years later they wouldn't have gotten that much land, simply because of the resistance of the parks people. There was that moment in time when you could do something, and it was a good moment to seize. The Alaska Natives who seized it did well for their people. Where it's going, it's a work in progress. It will continue to evolve as the Native people of Alaska evolve.

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