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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Two  -  Page 6
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John Havelock
Tom Richards: I would like to start by asking you to give some general observations about ANCSA and about how you became involved in the process.

John Havelock: I used to teach here, and the temptation is definitely to follow into a pattern of instruction as opposed to narrative, so forgive me if I revert to type A a little bit in my comments. My first observation, coming off the wall the way teachers’ comments sometimes do, is that many of you may remember a book by Marshall Mcluhan. It was called The Medium Is the Message, I think the point he was making is sometimes its not the substantive content so much as the way a package of policy is delivered, that has the most lasting influence. I think that’s the case of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Historically, some of us probably knew that. Certainly people like the Federal Field Committee staff knew that.

The Federal Field Committee staff was a major influence once they got going. The establishment of the corporations actually, at least from my way of thinking, it didn’t get all that much attention in terms of what the consequences would be to set up the original model. The original model was consciously or unconsciously, based upon American federalism. The village corporations were conceived as states and regions were conceived as countries, and I think you can see little bits of that pattern in the way the act was originally set up. When I arrived in Juneau in 1959, my original education in ANCSA was really an education in the Native population of southeast Alaska. Then, because I was working for the government in other parts of the state, it was fairly clear that this was a colonial enterprise in progress. You could readily classify most of the White people as colonialists and they were impinging on what had been a fully-occupied Native population.

The word Native slips off my lips rather easily now although I always get annoyed when people don’t spell it a capital N and put Alaska in front of it with a capital A. But too, if you were to come up with some education in colonial history you’d know that Native was actually a derogatory term. It was used by colonial people to refer to the indigenous people they found wherever they decided to settle. By throwing them all together it sort of made them faceless. It was obvious to me. I couldn’t have been in the state for more than a few weeks before I realized that there were no Alaska Natives. There were these very diverse populations of people with fascinating backgrounds but they were no more one common people than you could mix together the people of Scotland and the people of Albania. They were very different.

Although, the only way that this was going to work was by having everybody together in one settlement. We needed that for the political power, we needed that for the satisfaction of the general American interests that were involved. I came in and saw these things. Six years later I was a participant in great things, although Tom went way over the top in describing the role I played. I feel very lucky to have been an observer. I’m not an Alaska Native, so who was I to say how the settlement should work out?

We could see this wasn’t just a land deal as it often was described. It was a constitution for Alaska Natives, and it would have enormous ramifications for all Natives living in the state at the time and the future generations. For better or for worse, my role was small compared to some other people that might have been in my position simply because I didn’t feel it was my business to tell people how they should be formulating their settlement. I was an observer rather than an enactor. I worked with Emil in the early sixties and incorporated the Cook Inlet Native Association, the first association. I worked in a corporation, Northwest Native Association, which became NANA, but these organizations, as far as I was concerned, were to be run by the people whose land it was and whose futures were at stake. If mistakes were to be made, and there were plenty to make, I felt they should be their mistakes not my mistakes.

Others, like Stanley McClutcheon, to a much lesser extent Cliff Groh, Barry Jackson, and some other people had seen the need and went much further than I would have ever thought of going. I’m not being pejorative about what went on because what they did in assuming leadership roles may well have been to great benefit. However, it involved a certain moral presumption to be able to think that they knew best for these people.

I’ll admit that I come here not having recently read this book, although it certainly was the Bible of the hour. I have read Don Mitchell’s book, and things I have to say are partly in reaction to reading his book, which I think is a very good book, it can stand for a long time as the classic text on this subject. One of the things he misses -- and he’s one of those summer people, he didn’t get here until ’70 or ’71 -- is the influence of oil from the beginning. I think that starts with statehood itself. I think the gospel around Anchorage tends to be that statehood was created by Eisenhower when he was President.

The big influences in making Alaska a state came from Lyndon Johnson when he was Majority Leader of the Senate and Sam Rayburn as the Speaker of the House. These were oil Texans, all Democrats. They saw an opportunity for oil development and because oil seeps were well known, both on the North Slope and in the Gulf. They did not want the United States government to be the body controlling this development. They worked well with the states, with private persons, with Indian tribes, so the oil people from the beginning had no prejudice against Alaska Native ownership of oil, at least from my experience, and I saw a lot of them over those years. What they didn’t want was to deal with the big old federal government with its slowness and its political power, and so they supported statehood and they got statehood. Part of the premise of statehood, if you read the original documents on it, was those resources. The argument against it was, “There’s no money here, people can’t support themselves, they’re all on the federal dole.” These guys said correctly that, “Hey, there are resources up there that could support this new state.”

People knew about the Native claims to land at that time. One of my memories is from 1970: I walked around with Egan when he did his lobbying and he knew everybody and they all knew his perspective. We went to see John Saylor who was an important Congressman, and it wasn’t two second before he was wagging his finger at Egan and saying, “Bill, I told you back in 1959 we should have never given you statehood without settling those claims.” Bill Egan, in his sort of humble way said, “Yes sir, we should have done that.”

I think Don Mitchell gives more credit than I would to the effect of the Nixon Administration in supporting the settlement and their reasons for doing so. One thing he misses is that Nixon came to political power partly as a result of a group of southern California oilmen. The bank rolled in and had sort of a kitchen cabinet for him in those early years. I think it was a done deal because oil wanted it at that time and those guys would have all talked to him about passing the act. For better or worse we could not have had a settlement, at least not on this scale, without the influence of those oil people. When you think of those oil guys, you think of them as, “Well they may be wearing white hats but they should be black hats and they’re from Texas and they’re mean good old boys that are somewhat racist.” But, by the time we came to the Settlement Act, Hugh Gallagher and Bill Foster, who both had been Bartlett staffers, were great mediators for the oil peoples’ point of view. Foster came from Texas and had a great accent for talking to oil people. They knew it needed to be done, early on, and it didn’t much matter from the industry perspective what that acreage was.

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