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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number One  -  Page 6
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Tom Richards: I think you addressed a number of the questions I had, but I think I’d like to combine a couple more into one. I think it’s very significant that on December 18, 1971, President Nixon carried forth a promise he made to Alaska Native people. He said he would not sign into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act unless it was approved by the Alaska Native people. There was a special convention of AFN, I think it was at Alaska Methodist University, now Alaska Pacific University, in which the AFN delegates voted on whether or not to approve of the adoption and the enactment of ANCSA. The vote was overwhelming. The Arctic Slope Native Association voted no. How were the policies of Arctic Slope different from the other Native regions, and why did you vote no on ANCSA?

Joe Upicksoun: The reasons the Arctic Slope Native Association asked President Nixon to veto that bill were, (1), there wasn’t enough land. Forty million acres was not enough, and (2), the distribution of the land and money. We won on the land side, because we used the land loss formula, which said that the whole of Alaska was 375 million acres, and the Arctic Slope Native Association came in with 56 and a half million acres of it that they claimed, and that was 14 percent of all of Alaska. So when the 40 million acres came in, we wanted 14 percent, which we got, and that totaled a little over five million acres in fee simple.

And (3), the Alaska Federation of Natives was influenced by the Federal Field Committee, which recommended that we include the Tlingits and Haidas in our land claims settlement. We thought they already had their settlement in court, but the Federal Field Committee wanted to bring in the Tlingits and Haidas so they could involve the Department of Agriculture, and we would have two cabinets to become involved in how we resolve the land issues in Alaska. Eventually when you look at the bill, the Tlingits and Haidas got 25 percent of the whole settlement. Thereabouts.

I’ve always expected leaders to succeed and I don’t put up with failures. There are some of us that were born rulers, and we develop leaders and we expect them to be obedient. We have them. Our shareholders are intelligent enough to bring in their proxies and bring in more educated board members in our corporations and our government. We’re electing college graduates now, so I have a lot of confidence in the younger generation taking over and finishing some of those things we could not get done because of the politics of either Washington D.C. or at the state level.

Tom Richards: Do you have any other comments you’d like to add along here?

Joe Upicksoun: Yes! I was fortunate to get to know Howard Rock before he became interested in meeting with the Association of American Indians and Henry Forbes. He was an artist living at the Nordale Hotel down in Fairbanks. Eventually, he talked about having a newspaper that would really communicate with Alaska Natives. He wanted to have a press in Alaska that was an advocate for all the Alaska Native concerns and was also very informative about what was happening to the Alaska Native leadership.

Tom Richards: Thank you, Joe. Our next speaker. We got together earlier this morning, and I don’t think he recognized me.

C. Robert Zelnick: I’ve aged a lot.

Tom Richards: Bob and I traveled together covering land claims, he for the Daily News and me for the Tundra Times. Then we kind of lost track of each other. After Bob left the Daily News, he did a wonderful job covering issues for the broader Alaska audience that would otherwise not have been addressed. Not only Aboriginal rights, but issues of equal access to justice, sanitation and many other issues the broader media in Alaska didn’t cover. From there, Bob went to Washington, D.C., and became a news director for National Public Radio, and then he went to ABC News, and then I got to see him on the news every night. He didn’t see me.

A couple of years ago, I ran into a lady on the street here in town. I used to have black hair. She looked at me and she said, “Did you used to be Tom Richards?” Well, Bob is now chairman of the Department of Journalism and a professor of Journalism at Boston University. Happy to see you, and welcome home, Bob.

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