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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number One  -  Page 8
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Tom Richards: One criticism that I anticipate is about the composition of this committee, not by individual membership, but in particular that there are no women on this panel. That was one of the complaints I made when I saw the original selection of folks. And why don’t you come up Irene too and you Dr. Eder, I think we need one more chair at one of the other ends.

This panel, the folks that came up with the idea for this lecture series and that were the motivators and the organizers were Native women, Dr. Eder, a Sioux lady, a premier educator, we’re lucky to have her as director of Native Studies at University of Alaska Anchorage, and Irene Rowan, a Tlingit lady from Haines. I would also like to ask the Chancellor to join us. I made this comment during some of our planning sessions, the first seminar doesn’t feature any women. The ladies said, “Well, you tell them that we organized it, and we just put you guys up as talking heads so the whole world could see how males fumble around.”

Another point I would like to make as we’re getting assembled here is we’ve had a lot of tremendous success stories in ANCSA. Some of the corporations have done very well, there’ve been a lot of jobs created, there’ve been some tremendous dividends paid in several of the corporations that have attracted a lot of attention. But—we said it before -- this is a work in progress.

I want to tell you about some of the communities that I go to, some of my favorite villages. My last trip to a village, there has not been one job created by ANCSA, they have not had one dividend. They knew I was coming; they invited me to stay with them. They had a little bit of cash in the house. They went and bought four or five gallons of fuel oil, that’s how they do it in this community, they buy oil by the day, because they can’t afford 40 or 50 gallons of oil. They bought four or five gallons of oil and a can of peaches, and we had dinner that night at their house. We had dried fish in seal oil, and some boiled seal meat, and a big pot of goose soup followed by Eskimo ice cream. Aguduk we call it there, we call it Akutuq. Then it came time for bed, they slept on the floor and gave me the best bed in the house. By that time of the evening, the house was warm.

For those people, ANCSA is an unfulfilled promise. That’s one thing I want your students to remember. This is where your role -- to make sure that the intent of ANCSA, to provide for economic opportunity for all Alaska Natives, is fulfilled.

We’ll move on to the questions from our observers here. For Nels Anderson, what were some examples of the times when things almost fell apart -- this is in the period 1966 to 1971 during the Native Claims movement and AFN -- what the issues were most difficult to resolve?

Nels Anderson, Jr.: There were several of the organizations that didn’t like the direction in which AFN was moving, and as a result, there were threats to withdraw. Emil Notti, John Borbridge, and Harvey Samuelsen were put into action to try to put those fires out, and I don’t remember any particular time, but there were times when things got really, really rough. I think probably Bristol Bay threatened to pull out because they weren’t very happy.

But all things being equal, many of us really didn’t understand the magnitude of what we were trying to do at the time we were doing it. I’ll say that now, in all honesty.

Going to the question of what were the issues most difficult to resolve. I think the most acrimonious portion of the entire act was the name itself. It was called, you know, the Native Land Claims Settlement Act. No one believed we got enough land. No one. Some of us young Turks wanted a 100 million acres. You know, we just wanted to get more land. We didn’t care about the money. We wanted more land. I would say that the land issue was probably the most difficult amongst the group to resolve.

When you get right down to it, the decision on how much land we were going to get resided in the hands of Congress. No matter what we wanted, it was going to be resolved by people who didn’t live here and didn’t understand the extent to which Alaska’s Native people need their land. The dust that is in the land is the dust of their ancestors. Those kinds of feelings are hard to transmit to a Congress that doesn’t spend a lot of time considering your issues when you’re lobbying them.

The last issue was not the money associated with the Claims Act, but getting enough money to continue producing an effective campaign, and trying to decide which strategy was the best to employ -- at the time with the amount of money we had this caused internal dissention, but I think wisdom prevailed, and we were able to pick the best strategies and move ahead.

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