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Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number One  -  Page 12
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Tom Richards: I’ll just repeat a couple of these questions. I think these have been addressed. One is about the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). NCAI was opposed to AFN accepting the 40 million acres in fee simple rather than in trust. I think we discussed that -- the last couple of speakers.

It appeared ANCSA was a terminationist legislation. What caused AFN to take this position, and did they share the spirit of NCAI. I think we just addressed that – the last two speakers.

Senator Mike Gravel: Not as clearly as I think it should be. The whole approach of termination was really a few people misstated their positions. Congress as a whole never viewed the Native Land Claims as termination, and to my knowledge, doesn’t view it that way today. Proof of that is the Native hospital right near the university here.

Tom Richards: I think I do recall, Senator, that a lot of the intent of Congress is expressed in the conference committee reports. Senator Harris from Oklahoma was very explicit in the conference committee report on the Senate Interior Committee side saying this was not terminationist legislation.

Here’s a question for Nels, and I’ll try to answer unless you think I’m wrong because we discussed this earlier today. What role did the Yakima Indian Nation take in the Land Claims Act? Why did they play a role in the process?

The Yakima Indian Nation provided a loan of $225,000 to AFN to be used to promote the settlement of the claims, and I think their interest was to assist the Alaska Natives in obtaining a settlement of Aboriginal title. They were very generous in that regard.

Senator Mike Gravel: Keep in mind that the Yakima Indians were the constituency of Scoop Jackson, and so I was not privy to anything, but I would guess that there were conversations that went back and forth between the Yakimas and Jackson -- vice versa -- both encouraging support.

Tom Richards: There are two questions here which are very similar, so I’ll read them both and then they’ll be open to the panel. What do you think of Senate President Rick Halford and House Speaker Brian Porter’s request to the Bush administration to reconsider the 1993 formal status granted to tribes? Do you think it would be successful? And this other question, which I think is similar, what do you think will happen with the tribal sovereignty status if it goes back to reconsideration, as requested by Senator Halford and Representative Porter? This is open to anybody.

Nels Anderson, Jr.: Well, very quickly, I think that it’s just not going to happen. It is not going to happen. That’s it.

Tom Richards: It depends, too, on whether they’re talking about the executive proclamation issued by Governor Knowles which recognizes tribes. That’s a state declaration or proclamation. The federal government is the one that recognizes tribes, and tribes in Alaska have been recognized through a list published by authority of the Secretary of the Interior. That’s what federal law provides, so it doesn’t really matter what the state does, but it’s nice that the governor says that there are tribes.

E. Lee Gorsuch: Tom, I might just also comment that I did a major study, as a follow-up to the enactment of the Native Land Claims, it’s under section 2C which called for the examination of federal programs designed for Native benefit and whether they would have been distinguished as a result of passage of the act. I discovered that Congress created a variety of very special pieces of legislation that, on their own statutory authority, define who would be the beneficiary group, and each of those pieces of legislation are sometimes different. It doesn’t uniformly apply to tribes as of a particular date in time. They might have other eligibility criteria that are determined, but I think sometimes there’s an oversimplification that the Congress can create statutory beneficiaries in a variety of ways that may not be circumscribed with the title of the tribe per se, but might have some other historic access to configure federal programs. It’s a far more complicated issue than simply looking at it as though it’s strictly a tribe question, rather than another matter of jurisdiction determined by the United States Congress.

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