Tom Richards: It’s interesting that you’d talk about Klukwan and Irene. I was on that trip. At the time, I was an assistant to the area director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He had asked me to accompany Irene and Donna to Washington to help, to provide some support. On the day we got there, we met some Indians from Washington State and they invited us to what they called a 49 Party, at Potomac Park. We were there, you know, just dancing away and singing away until about 5:00 in the morning, and we had had to meet with folks on Capitol Hill about at 8:00 o’clock. This morning over breakfast you had some interesting comments about Native leadership that I wonder if you’d care to share.
Sam Kito: My definition of a Native leader is a Native who doesn’t know whether he’s being followed or being chased; he only knows that there are a whole bunch of people behind him and he’d better be good or else. Following and chasing is a fine line.
Tom Richards: If you had it to do over, would you still enroll to Doyon?
Sam Kito: I’m happy enrolled there. I’m doing fine. My mother died and gave all my children 25 shares of Sealaska stock and she held one out for me, so I have one share of Sealaska.
Tom Richards: Do you think there could have been a Native preference when ANILCA was developed and do you think it might be possible to revisit that and ask the Congressional folks for a Native preference?
Sam Kito: The simple answer is no. In 1979 and 1980, when ANILCA passed and we got into Title 8 and the negotiations for Title 8, we asked for a Native priority. What happened was that our dear friend Lloyd Meads was the last full chairman of the Indian Subcommittee of the House Interior Affairs Committee. A Native priority became such a hot seat that Udall moved everything from the subcommittee level that dealt with Indian Affairs and Alaska issues to the full committee, and Chairman Udall told us we weren’t going to get a Native priority. We couldn’t do it, and if we couldn’t do it in 1979 or 1980 when they wrote Title 8, it’s not going to happen now. Mo Udall was our friend and gave us just about everything we ever wanted, and that was his advice -- we cannot get a Native priority, take rural, because if we don’t take rural, we take nothing. Those were the politics at the time and I don’t think that’s changed.
Tom Richards: There have been two comprehensive assessments of the effectiveness of ANCSA’s implementation. There was the Alaska Native Review Commission done by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and then there was the Department of the Interior’s 1985 report to Congress on the implementation of ANCSA. In that report, the Interior Department interviewed quite a number of people, and one of the people they interviewed was Charlie Johnson, the past president of the Bering Straits Native Corporation. Charlie’s comment about ANCSA was, “You know the benefits of the Lands Claims Act really have fallen only to a few. And that few are those of us who are employed by the corporations. The primary economic benefit has been to those who have been employed by the corporations and it has not fallen to the general Native population.”
Do you think that’s an accurate assessment? Do you think anything has changed? Do you think anything could be done to improve the benefits for shareholders?
Sam Kito: I think that’s a function of management. If you do not, as manager, develop a local hire plan or shareholder hire plan, then that’s your fault. If they didn’t put their shareholders into their companies, it’s because they didn’t have a plan to do it.
I could show you corporations around the state that have a significant shareholder hire. Look at NANA, look at Doyon, Doyon Drilling, Doyon/NANA Field Services -- the joint ventures that these corporations have are moving in that direction. You can’t hire everybody, but you can provide opportunities, and when people have opportunities, they generally take them and I think they can succeed.
Tom Richards: You were talking about the hospital a little while ago, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and that’s a huge undertaking, a big service organization. The social service agencies and the health corporations have tremendous numbers of employees. We were out in Bethel the other day, and Gene Peltola from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation told us that he has over 1,300 employees working in YKC. There has been tremendous growth on the social services side.
One final question, Sam. What do you believe remains to be done to implement the intent of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act?
Sam Kito: I think the implementation of Title VII is necessary. The negotiations that are ongoing for the pipeline right-of-way, which renews in a couple of years, that’s a major issue that’s coming up that’s going to have tremendous impact.
Mr. Van Ness is going to be speaking next month. When he was working for Senator Jackson, he negotiated the last right-of-way -- that’s where we ended up with a fixed number of Alaska Natives to work on the pipeline. I think that those negotiations will put Alaska Natives to work. What number will depend on the negotiation, but that’s upcoming.
As far as the rest of the corporations, I do think we’ve come a long way, but we need to think about those smaller corporations and those smaller villages, just like we have to think about those smaller schools out there. Even though we have $28 million in the bank, money is getting tighter in Juneau. The public doesn’t want to spend the permanent fund. You can spend the Constitutional Budget Reserve, but it takes a three-quarters vote to get into that. There’s about $2,700,000 left. You can get into the permanent fund with a simple majority, but no politician is going there.
If they don’t find a way, the smaller communities, just like these smaller corporations, are going to have a pretty rough road ahead. I do think there needs to be some looking at the future of the smaller corporations and tribal rights.
If there was a way for some of the corporations to transfer land to sovereign tribal organizations, there would be a fight to allow for a land base or the tribes and the limited authority that they have now. Those are probably the major touch stones that I think need to be looked at.
Tom Richards: I have a number of other questions, but they’re after 1990.
There’s a lot of misconception about the Native leadership. You know, they think there’s a bunch of us guys sitting up here deciding things, but you should have heard Janie this morning over breakfast. “Guy goes first and then Sam and then John and then me.”
Sam Kito: “And leave 1991 alone.”