John Havelock: The Native Claims Settlement Act owed a lot to the rebellion of Black people in the United States and a whole lot of lessons were learned. I could see Charlie Etok putting on the same terrific shows that some of the Black people had done earlier. I remember another vignette: the Secretary of the Interior was holding this press conference in this gigantic Interior Department auditorium. Charlie came in at the side and started making noise and pretty soon all of the cameras were around Charlie. The Secretary of Interior was up there all by himself and Charlie was doing his number, which was terrific.
In the end the act came to focus a lot on land and lot on money to the exclusion of other things. It amazed me at the time that the fish and wildlife power was given up with so little protest. Although as a State person, I thought it would be a good idea. I was a little naïve at the time in thinking that the oral promises of the hour were well and that the State’s would take care of this.
You needed to have unified fish and game because biology does not recognize subsistence or non-subsistence, so you need to have unified regulations. People said, “The state is going to recognize subsistence, not to worry.” That is one of the many lessons: however well-meaning a government representative may be in making his promises, you better get it in writing because it sure isn’t binding when the next guy is in office. The state, from its policy point of view, following what I said about why Alaska became a state was anxious about land selection. Bill Egan was anxious, as other governors were before him, to make sure that the state wouldn’t lose its resource base to fund the government. One of the ways it was developed to assure this was to cluster the land around villages. If you give me the right to select maybe two, three million acres of Alaska land, I could take 80 percent of the value of this whole place. So, just think of it. Not every acre is worth the same.
One of the problems I saw and that has come out of the act is the shortchanging of the villages. Regions, you know, didn’t exist and people take them for granted now. At least in the North, Alaska Natives are not a regional people. Athabascans and Eskimos are village people, not regional people. These regions were created to implement the act. One of the things that occurred out of that, it seems to me, was the short-changing of the elders system because the elders were Native-based. The young guys sort of got on to the regions and they were more westernized and were more able to deal with Congressmen and economic issues and so on. You could see a new junior level of achievers come along who basically took over the leadership for the regions, which had been based on an elder system before then. A window was left in the act for a pass-through to the villages, but that never took place.
Back in 1971 there were a very small number of people who knew anything about corporations. One of the mistakes we could see, but couldn’t do anything about, was that there wasn’t enough separate money put in for the major and continuing educational programs. One of the reasons that this structure was acceptable, not to the State so much, but to the White population was it had aspects of the Termination Act in it. The Indian policy in America weighed between the reservation policy and the termination policy, going to liquidate Natives and have them merge into the general population.
There are certainly many features of ANCSA, including the corporate structure that were certainly intended, from the point of view of Senator Stevens and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, to result in a termination of special preferences. It was a good little battle to make sure that 2(c) was in the act to make sure that full liquidation of Native individuality wasn’t included. I was scared to death that giving the Native organizations fee title and the land would mean that it would all get sucked up, because you could see failures coming down the line. For the smaller villages it should have been used sort of like a Permanent Fund; put it in an account and take earnings from it rather than try to, right off the bat, start investment programs, because a lot of money was lost that way.
Corporations provide the most amount of benefits to the people who are employed by them and who are contracting with them. At the time of the Settlement Act we had a Native community, insofar as you can describe it as a community, united by its poverty. I don’t remember any really pinnacles of wealth; there were a couple of people who had some money, but nobody was really rich. Then we got the Settlement Act and we had differentiated access. We could see that coming. That meant that most people would be untouched by the Settlement Act and that some people would become quite wealthy. There are many millionaires around now who made their fortunes out of the act.
Section 7(i) of the act was intended to mitigate this in part, and I participated in that last meeting where Mike Gravel gave a memo on our position near the eleventh hour of the Act. We were looking at 7(i) which, at the time, was 50 percent revenue sharing, that is 50 percent of resource revenue had to be shared among the regions. When I get through telling you this some Eskimo is going to come up here and kill me. At any rate, I explained to my assembled seniors, “Look, there is still going to be enormous concentrations of wealth in various places so this ought to be much higher, the sharing part.” They said, “Okay, what do you want?” I said, “Well, let’s try 80 percent,” so we went up to 80.
Other people came in and the number got knocked back down to 70, but it had been 50. I didn’t have a clue that it was going to be so contentious that a hundred lawyers would battle over it. That was something we should have anticipated and we should have had other techniques to deal with it. How am I doing, Tom?