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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Three  -  Page 3
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Tom Richards: I found in my notes something you had written 30 years ago.

Guy Martin: Oh my God.

Tom Richards
Tom Richards: I think it was in about 1972 and it’s talking about ANCSA, and I quote here: “The Natives had a good cause. It was an election year. The Indian rights movement was gaining strength and acceptance. Still, none of these factors could have been a controlling influence at the White House or even made it possible for Native leaders to see the White House staff without other assistance. This assistance came largely from the oil industry and related business interests and from the only Republican in Alaska’s delegation, Senator Ted Stevens. This was the first of many times that the shared fates of the land claims and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline would produce a strange coalition of support for the Native cause.”

Guy Martin: At least I’m consistent.

Tom Richards: It sounds very similar to what you just stated. In this seminar we’re talking about the implementation of ANCSA. Let me ask you, in your view, what do you think remains to be done? What has not been implemented?

Guy Martin: It seems to me that almost all of the building blocks of ANCSA have been implemented. In fact, they’ve been implemented and they’ve been modified. The corporate structure has been set up. The basic moving pieces of the act have been set up. What remains is a series of themes. I just wrote down these themes, some of which are more resolved that others. You have a series of issues that relate to land selections and the conflict between the state land selections and the Native land selections. You have a series of issues that relate to 7(i) and the sharing of revenue between the various Native groups. And incidentally, I’d said say parenthetically that I don’t think people realize how visionary that was. That was some social engineering, but it was more in the guise of economic standards.

Now the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act basically allows tribes, under certain circumstances, to start gaming operations, and many have. The success of those gaming operations is a direct result of where its located with regard to people who come to a casino. If you’re between Boston and New York or Philadelphia, you’re in great shape. If you’re out in South Dakota, you’re S.O.L. In that act, there’s no revenue sharing. The tribes that are fortuitously located near a demographic that can successfully support a casino resist any notion of sharing. They take the position that it would be means testing by the federal government to share with one another. At the time ANCSA was enacted, there was a sense of fairness and sharing by those who were fortuitously situated over subsurface resources.

Then the others, Tom, just the same. We’ve got, obviously, subsistence that’s clearly unfinished. The NOLs [Net Operating Loss] issue was pretty much settled, and there aren’t too many governance issues left. There are, I think, issues related to stock alienation and dealing with the After-Born issue. The whole sovereignty issue remains. I think those are sort of the remaining agendas.

I yield to everybody who I’m speaking with here who’s still living here and dealing with it intensively, but to me, the big issue is the future of Native villages. We can talk more about that later.

Tom Richards: I thought it was interesting when you were talking about the Native Welcome Center in Anchorage as one of the few organizations that had any presence or offered assistance to Natives. I was also interested when Chancellor Gorsuch talked about how there hasn’t been a failure among our Native corporations. Does it surprise you that none of the regional or village corporations have failed?

Guy Martin: I can’t pretend to be an expert on the economics of each and every one of the corporations, but I would raise the question of what “not failing” means, and it’s something we should discuss later. Is not failing defined as not formally going bankrupt? There have been a couple of bankruptcies. I don’t know how many, but I would say that’s way too narrow of a definition. The real question, to me, is whether or not the village has actually become something meaningful for that village.

Tom Richards: You touched on one of the unfinished points of ANCSA and Native rights in Alaska when you mentioned subsistence. Do you think that there might be a solution to the question of subsistence out there somewhere?

Guy Martin: I’m almost going to demur on that question, Tom, because I really have not a been meaningful part of that debate in Alaska and my bias is that subsistence ought to be tilted toward the Native perspective. All I know is that a solution that takes that tilt has been unattainable.

Tom Richards: Considering your involvement with Congressman Begich and your intimate knowledge of how ANCSA was developed, did you have any idea 30 years ago that we would be sitting here with the subsistence question still hanging over everybody’s head?

Guy Martin: I’m not surprised at all. I don’t think there was a meaningful policy discussion of subsistence in the passage of ANCSA. There wasn’t a great awareness of it. Obviously people were interested in it, but I don’t think it was one of those issues they attempted to resolve in the Settlement Act in a definitive way, so it doesn’t surprise me that we’re still talking about it.

Tom Richards: Speaking of surprises, you were talking earlier about the Native Welcome Center. Are you aware of the development of the Native social service industry, so to speak? You’ve got the Southcentral Foundation here in Anchorage and they have hundreds of employees. Tanana Chiefs has about 640 employees and a $72 million a year budget. Did you ever envision the social developments we’ve had in the last 20 or 25 years?

Guy Martin: I’m not sure I envisioned it, although as it unfolded it seemed fairly obvious that’s what had to happen. I just heard the statistics that almost all the out-migration from the villages and the in-migration to other places is to Anchorage and Fairbanks and other larger cities, which isn’t surprising. These social services have risen to meet the challenge. I got in trouble a few years ago for raising the issue of how to deal with migration from the villages in one of my columns in the Anchorage Daily News. I definitely do not have the answer, but it seems to me that we ought to move to move to a situation where Natives who live in villages are given the opportunity to do that in a variety of ways, under circumstances that meet their needs, but not under somebody’s preconceived notion of how they ought to live. They ought to have the ability to choose how they receive benefits, whether they are incentivized to remain in the village in order to receive them or whether the incentive to remain in the village is a positive one that allows them to continue the lifestyle. When I hear you say you’ve got this burgeoning social services capability in the big cities, I guess I’m comforted, but I’m not sure how much.

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