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Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number One  -  Page 10
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Tom Richards: Here’s one I think I’ll give to one of the ladies; we haven’t heard much from them. We’ve been the front guys. They’re the real brains behind all this going on here. Maybe Irene can address this, or Dr. Eder. What would your thoughts be if someone were to establish Native American studies as a mandatory class in the school systems. Would it be beneficial?

Senator Mike Gravel: Yes.

Irene Rowan: Yes.

Senator Mike Gravel: Very much. Very important.

Dr. Jeanne Eder
Dr. Jeanne Eder: In the whole school system, I think it would be great. The Native American side of the story is 50 percent of the story, and yet it has been hidden for years, especially in Alaska. The Lower 48 has had Native American studies programs in their universities for quite a while, but Alaska Natives studies, even on this campus, is fairly new. I think it’s important that everybody can understand our histories, so they can understand why Native peoples have dual citizenship in this country and cannot be treated like other minorities.

Senator Mike Gravel: I would hope that somebody would write text for K –12 students. This isn’t just a college experience. This is something that the children of our society here in Alaska should be exposed to. It’s the only answer to the future.

Tom Richards: A question just handed to Bob here. I think he has a national perspective on Native rights throughout the country. For other indigenous groups, such as the Hawaiians, what advice would you give to achieve (1), federal recognition, and (2), settlement of indigenous land claims?

C. Robert Zelnick: Well, frankly, Tom, I think that requires a personal trip. In point of fact, during the last couple of years that I was with ABC News, there was an outstanding lawyer from Hawaii whose name slips my mind, but he had recently gone over there to run President Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and became so enamored of the place that he stayed there to practice law. He is involved in major litigation. In point of fact, the Native Hawaiians are entitled, under different laws, to special educational privileges and to the income from certain lands and certain undertakings there. I can’t be too specific, because I never did convince ABC to send me over to do the story, but I do know that the system of privileges has been attacked in the courts by non-Native Hawaiians. The issue is probably not identical in content to the claims issue we’ve been talking about, but it is a very live and thriving legal issue in Hawaii.

Tom Richards: I have one question here that relates to tribal authorization for ANCSA, and I might try to take a stab at it. I certainly would welcome help from any of the panelists here. Is it true that the approvers of ANCSA had no tribal resolution to sign ANCSA, to in effect ratify ANCSA, and that it’s a mere showing because Congress claims jurisdiction over us?

A case can be made that there’s a principal throughout the body of federal Indian law, including the Wheeler Howard Act, the Indian Reorganization Act—we have attorneys here, so I won’t go into depth about Indian law—but one basic principal is that Aboriginal rights, Indian rights, may not be abrogated without consent of the tribe, and I think that’s true.

In one effect, that’s one of the failings of ANCSA. We had established federally recognized tribes in 1971; a majority of the villages were recognized as federal tribes and had IRA Charters as tribal governments, and it was within their constitutions as authorized by the IRA Act that no property or interest in property may be taken without their consent. The people who voted on ANCSA were the Native associations. AFN, at one time, had a membership of 23 Native Associations, and eventually there were about 12. That’s a good point, because that’s something that’s a judgment call.

I don’t think any of the corporations are going to go back to Congress and jeopardize their standing because they’ve got all the land and a good chunk of the money. It doesn’t make any sense for an ANCSA corporation to go back and address this. It might make some sense for tribes to do this, but there’s a danger there. Congress has absolute authority over Indian affairs. To go back to Congress and say, “Hey, we didn’t approve of ANCSA,” Congress could say, “Okay, too bad, we’ll wipe the whole thing out and you guys get nothing.”

Nels Anderson, Jr.: There are a couple of things on tribal recognition and whether or not the Claims Act is legitimate without approval of the tribal groups. I made a point earlier that there is work to be done by the young people who are following our example. There are unresolved issues of a constitutional, political, and legal nature that still need to be pursued. That’s why I urge you to continue your education to do the necessary research, so that you have firm factual ground to stand upon.

I also made a point earlier that there were no fax machine or telephones. We didn’t have television. We had very little communication between what we were doing in our meetings in Anchorage or Fairbanks and the people back home. When you look at the time frame from when this began to when something actually happened -- 1966 to 1971 -- it was light-year speed. That’s a very small period of time for such a huge transaction of this nature occurred. To adequately inform all of our people across the state, I don’t know how we could have done it. I know that’s not a good excuse, but I felt at the time that we should proceed, because I didn’t foresee another opportunity presenting itself for us to bring to a conclusion a portion of our claims against the United States.

Senator Mike Gravel: Let me say that tribal agency has not been extinguished. It’s still very much there; it was recognized in an amendment, so the book is open. When you make a point that the Congress is the final authority for Indian affairs, I’ve got to tell you it’s the final authority for all of us. That’s it. We’ve got a representative government until something better comes along, which I’m working on. That’s it. That’s the final word.

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