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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Two  -  Page 14
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Esther Wunnicke: I wanted to ask John Borbridge a question. You were head of the Central Council which encompassed all southeast villages and I guess one of the troublesome things about dealing with tribes at the moment is having 200 and some tribal designations. I wonder what you think about consolidating some of the villages into larger tribal groups and whether that would be helpful?

John Borbridge: My experience is that in all likelihood the village tribal governments would reject that on the basis that they have a greater basic touch with their members, and they’re more familiar with things in their areas. The southeast experience was that the Central Council sought federal acknowledgment of its tribal status, and it was received. The village tribal governments were also acknowledged by the feds. As you may recall, the legislation dropped the Central Council as an entity but in further legislation it was restored. However, there is a provision that the regional tribal entity is not to be competitive with the village entities for dollars or programs, so there is something of a distinction recognizing that.

Esther Wunnicke: Thank you. I want to make a comment too if I may, Tom. I’m an inactive attorney, and I wouldn’t presume to practice law now, but it certainly was a great opportunity. I thought one of the miracles of the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was that traditional enemies sometimes, and certainly different groups of Alaska Natives hung together long enough to get this very sophisticated piece of legislation through the Congress.

Tom Richards: Well, Esther I wish you would have told me at the beginning that you were not a practicing attorney. I would have been easier on you. Mr. Havelock?

John Havelock: For better or for worse I am a practicing attorney. I would like to thank the University of Alaska for holding this forum. I’ll leave one mysterious word of advice, which is: corporate democracy is to democracy as marshal music is to music.

I had a question for Emil, it might have to be put in terma of a story. Remember one time you were not flying and therefore you were driving to Juneau and something happened in the pass? Can you remember what happened to you in the pass when you were driving down that time? To your vehicle?

Emil Notti: Oh, I had a car burn up. I hold a pilot’s license, and for some reason I became afraid of flying. For two years I wouldn’t get aboard a plane except for very rarely when I had to. I did drive to Washington, D.C., and I took my family because we were getting close to wrapping things up and we stayed down there for three months. The car that burned up was a brand new VW Bus, and Willie Hensley had just gotten married and he asked me to haul down a bunch of his house goods. We got down to a place called Macintosh and stayed overnight. The next morning the bus wouldn’t start, the engine wouldn’t start, so I walked over to the service station and said, “I need some help.” So the guy brought out a thing with a blowtorch on it, and I wasn’t paying any attention, and he crawled under the back and putting the blow torch up on the engine. I put my head under there, and the engine was red hot and he burned the insulation on the spark plug wires and oil was dripping. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “It’s too hot.” So he pulled the blowtorch away and by then the engine was on fire. This was in the morning, and the night before I had filled up the gas tank and parked the bus up against the motel. I could just see this thing was going to burn down the lodge. We got in there and pushed it away. The lodge owner drove us down to Haines where I got on the ferry and asked the Captain to get ahold of Senator Hensley, which he was glad to do. I had to tell Willie I wasn’t bringing his household goods down.

Tom Richards: I have some comments from Esther, and then I’ll exercise my rare prerogative to have the last word.

Esther Wunnicke: People have brought back so many memories of Governor Egan in this panel and I just want to tell my first experience with him. This was right after the 1964 earthquake, and my husband and my two small children and I were driving to Valdez and we had car trouble. Emil reminded me of it. We were beside the road, and my husband had the hood up, and we didn’t know what was wrong and this trooper car pulled up. It was a trooper driving Governor Egan to Valdez. Govenor Egan got out and helped to fix whatever was wrong and got us on our way, and I was so amazed to think that the governor of the state would stop his car to help somebody who was in trouble along the road. I think that kind of epitomized the kind of man Bill Egan was.

Tom Richards: If we had time we’d ask everybody to give us their favorite ANCSA anecdote. I’ll tell one. On the day that the Land Claims bill passed the U.S. Senate I was observing, and I filed my story, and the next issue of the Tundra Times, had it as the lead story, “Claims Bill Sails Through.” There was a bit of a celebration that night. The conference room on the sixth floor of the Capital Hill Hotel was essentially the AFN boardroom in Washington, D.C, and I attended the celebration and it went on for a long time. Every once in a while I would see this oil lobbyist that was real helpful to us. They just wanted the darn thing through so they could punch through the pipeline. They were really helping us on a lot of stuff. Remember Claude Desautels? I’d come over and I’d say, “Claude thank you so much for your help.” It seemed like I was doing it more and more frequently as the evening went on. The first couple of times he just shrugged, but as the evening went on he started looking at me funny. Then, finally, after about three or four hours and about the sixth time I went and profusely thanked him for his tireless lobbying efforts, he looked at me and sneered and said, “I’m not Claude, I’m the maitre d’.”

Thank you everybody, it’s been fun.

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