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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Two  -  Page 12
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Tom Richards: Emil, regarding the 13th Regional Corporation, why wasn’t the 13th Regional Corporation given title to land? Land increases in value and money doesn’t. There seems to be some concern that perhaps the 13th Region was treated unfairly.

Emil Notti: There are two parts to this answer. If the people in the 13th Region enrolled back to their place of birth in Alaska, they would have been involved in the land-based corporation. If they chose to enroll into the 13th Region, it was not given land and it was a geographical consideration because the Land Claims was based on use and occupancy, and usually around the villages where people used the land for wood for their log houses and keeping warm and hunting and trapping and fishing. So, when they separated themselves from the village there was no land outside of the state to give them. They could have given them excess federal lands but they had no aboriginal tie to those lands. It was mostly by choice that those people didn’t involve themselves in their own community to be land-based.

John Borbridge: Mr. Moderator, this was a several part question and I did not respond to the last important part and that is with respect to solution to the landless communities. I don’t have a shorthand solution. Understand the communities have been lobbying the Congress and they engendered some support from Senator Murkowski who pointed to the inadvertence of their omissions which I thought was very encouraging from their perspective. The only advice that I would give is: (1) continue that lobbying effort, and (2), seek expressions of support from all of the Native organizations, and focus on the injustice of what happened. I would focus on that very, very hard. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Tom Richards: We have a three-part question for Esther Wunnicke. The U.S. Constitution reserves trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes to Congress. This plenary power led to ANCSA. In your opinion did the focus of this law include abolition of tribal sovereignty? Also, the special relationship between the federal government and Indians is like a guardian and his ward. In your view was this principle maintained in drafting ANCSA?

Esther Wunnicke: I brought with me, but I don’t have in front of me right now, the first portions of ANCSA as it was first passed. I’ll answer the second question first; it specifically said that this would not be a guardian wardship relationship. ANCSA is a growing and flexible document. In 1991, in particular, a number of amendments to ANCSA were made. It will always be a growing document, as needs and attitudes change.

The purpose of the Claims Act, from my view, was to put into the hands of the people the means and the authority to work their own destiny. I call that self-determination. The constitutional provision is the foundation for the special relationship that many non-Native people see as a privilege or a preference. It’s that special relationship with Alaska Native people that gives you something like the Native Service Hospital, that gives you all of these other one-on-one relationships with the federal government.

I recently had the opportunity to work with the Rural Governance Commission. We traveled throughout Alaska, and I hadn’t been to some of those places for many years. In some places, I was struck by the changes, and other places I was disheartened because there had been so few changes. In the communities where things were working, there might be a tribal government, an ANCSA corporate municipality and NIRA council -- all different entities. The leaders in each of those entities were serving the same people, and taking whatever authority they had, whatever funding they had, and putting it all together to work for the village as a whole.

Tom Richards: I have a follow-up question for you, Esther. Wasn’t the Congress’ plenary authority over Indian affairs affirmed by the Supreme Court under the leadership of Justice Marshall in about 1832?

Esther Wunnicke: Yes, the traditional case enunciates that Alaska was in a different position from many of the other Indian tribes in Lower 48 in that there weren’t any treaties. The people of Alaska were not conquered by a foreign enemy and so they stood in a different position than had traditionally been the case.

Tom Richards: A question for Mr. Havelock. In your view, did the state propose to eliminate tribes and subsistence by agreeing to ANCSA?

John Havelock: At the time the Act was adopted, most of the non-Native people looking at the situation assumed that the corporate structure would become so dominant that tribal organizations would shrivel and disappear, or at least become of minor consequence.

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