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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Two  -  Page 13
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Tom Richards: Mr. Borbridge, you are asked to be a prognosticator here. What do you think will happen to ANCSA lands over the next 20 to 30 years, and what you do think will happen to village lands?

John Borbridge: Tom, I don’t know. The question might be, what could happen given certain circumstances? Earlier I was talking about corporations and village governments and the opportunity for them to try to work something out. When I think about a tribal government, I think about a government whose concerns are really perpetuity. The members are born into the tribe, they die, and they leave the tribe intact because of the new members coming in. The long-term vision of the corporations far exceeds anything that any entity might be able to envision. This is a natural charge or responsibility of the tribal government -- to plan for and to look after the well being of those who will come later. That is what a tribal government is.

I realize however, that while we have those concerns and this applies both to the regional and to the village corporate lands, that once again we have to face the obvious and that is where the ownership resides and what the requirements are that are imposed by the Securities Exchange Commission, corporate taxation, corporate law, and a multitude of things. I would suggest that the tribal governments consider using as much of their influence as possible to ensure that the corporate lands do not become subject to use as collateral for loans. It’s a matter of the villages checking their role as village tribal governments and making sure that the corporate officers and directors have the same value system—that the land is to be forever. How this would be done is a matter of sheer hard work. Again I don’t want to pretend because this is not a final answer, but I’m trying to give you some encouragement that these concerns are legitimate concerns.

Tom Richards: It kind of reminds me of questions that were asked in 1971. People were saying, “In ten years all your corporations are going to be bankrupt and non-Natives will own all the land.” Some corporations have merged, some have gone in and out of bankruptcy and reorganization plans, but we haven’t had a corporation fail. Hopefully, if things can keep up another 30 years, we won’t lose the land.

Emil, I’ll take the second part of this question if you want. How at the time ANCSA was passed, were the diverse Alaska Native groups represented by AFN? When was AFN formed? Weren’t there something like 23 organizations represented on the AFN Board at one point?

Emil Notti: I’ll take them in reverse. AFN was formed in April of 1967. We called the first statewide meeting in October of 1966 and we sent a group out to come in with some bylaws, which were adopted in April 1967. AFN became an organized group at that time.

How were the diverse groups represented by AFN? That question used to be asked of us when we were testifying to Congress, what gave us the right to be before them advocating for a land settlement? Our answer was, we asked the villages to send us representatives, the number of which we drew based on the number of people in the group. So at some meetings we would have as many as 800 elected delegates coming into the AFN meetings representing their groups. We had open debates. We would start in the morning and sometimes we’d meet until 10, 11 o’clock at night and go back and forth on an issue. How many acres should we settle for? What are some of the terms? Most of the elements of the Land Claims law were debated openly and voted on by these groups. It could be argued that it wasn’t a perfect situation, but remember, we didn’t have any money. The villages were financing their own way, but they were all represented at these meetings.

Tom Richards: This question is for Mr. John Havelock. Congressmen Aspinall asked Red Boucher, Governor Egan’s lieutenant governor, to tell him one thing that Governor Egan won’t give up. Could you expound upon Governor Egan’s position and explain more clearly what he would not give up on? I don’t recall the specifics about that one.

John Havelock: Well, I’m uncertain about the specifics but I can tell you an anecdote. At one point we were extraditing someone from Arizona, and to do that we had to have a special form of extradition petition sent to the governor of Arizona with the signature of the Governor and the seal of the State of Alaska affixed to it. When it came to that point, someone was dispatched down the hall to Red Boucher’s office to get the seal. The message came back after a long pause, “I can’t find it.” Egan said, “All that guy has to do is to take care of the seal and he can’t even do that.” This anecdote points out that often the relationship between a governor and a lieutenant governor is strained. They don’t necessarily pick each other and indeed I’m sure that Governor Egan would rather have had Emil Notti as his lieutenant governor rather than Red Boucher. But you know, as civilized people, they still got along.

Red went to Egan’s office and said, “Governor I’m going back to Washington and I’m going to see Wayne Aspinall, what shall I say?” And the Governor said, “Tell them I will not give up.” I assume what he meant is that he would not give up the fight because several times during the proceedings, as we all know, it looked like there might be no bill. Aspinall would throw up his hands and say they weren’t going to do anything, they were just going to go home and so there was always a possibility of zero bill.

When you’re passing judgment on the leaders of the Settlement Act and you think they should have done this or that, you have to keep in mind the reality is the people they were dealing with were people who had the power.

Tom Richards: We’re running out of time. I’ll give the option to each panelist to either make a closing statement or ask a question of another panelist, starting with Mr. Borbridge.

John Borbridge: I’ll be merciful to my fellow panelists by making a statement and not asking any questions. Number one, I do want to commend and encourage and congratulate the university and the people working with the university to record and preserve this and other oral recitations of the history of ANCSA -- how it came about, how it happened, what the issues were and what the inspirations were that occurred. I also encourage all who are involved to be as AFN was in those early days. Don’t back off from differences of opinion, don’t back off from debates, don’t back off from diverse viewpoints because they’re inevitable in something as complex as this has been. Instead of viewing a difference of opinion as something to cause you to slow down, just admit you hit the beautiful nerve point. Now you’re going to uncover some truths because out of the passionate comments truth will often emerge.

I congratulate you for that and I thank you for having been invited to share these thoughts. I want to close with this one philosophical comment, a very brief one. Because of having been blessed with the opportunity to be involved in something as great as the Land Claims battle and latter on the subsistence battle and then the tribal government battle, I have also felt it incumbent upon me when invited to share my experiences as much as possible with those who might be interested and especially with young people. Thank you, Tom.

Tom Richards: Thank you, John. Mr. Notti.

Emil Notti: I come out of a different tradition than the Tlingits do. We’re a little quieter up there on the Yukon. I’m setting the stage, and with an engineering background I was never trained to be a speaker. So during testimony I always depended upon a couple of people to make the case. I would always make the opening statement, and then toss it to John Borbridge who had a very eloquent way of framing our position. I’ve enjoyed being on the panel with all of you. No questions.

Tom Richards: Thank you, Emil. Esther.

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