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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Three  -  Page 10
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Janie Leask: So there were a lot of different problems with that. Besides that at the ’86 convention there was a directive from the delegates attending the convention which said, “Okay, AFN, go back and try again and see what you can do to take the best of the House, whatever minds you can change in the Senate, keep true to the eight resolutions and see what you can come up with. Work with the Alaskan Native Coalition,” which was an organization representing tribes at the time, “and see what you can come up with.” After the convention we met with the Alaska Native Coalition and drafted a bill. Early 1987 Congressman Young introduced the same bill that the House unanimously passed the previous year. It was again referred to Congressman Udall’s Committee. At a meeting of the AFN Board in the beginning of that year in February they adopted the jointly crafted AFN and the Alaska Native Coalition bill. They directed AFN to try to get as much of the House bill as possible and the contents of the joint bill as possible without jeopardizing the gains that had been made in the House. And after meeting with Congressman Young and Udall, AFN decided not to offer any amendments at all because that would jeopardize the House bill.

So again AFN, and the Alaska Native Coalition agreed to disagree on the issue of tribes and proceeded to go in their own direction and the Alaska Native Coalition tried to get some sponsors for their own bill. The House legislation passed out again unanimously in March of 1986. It was moving at a pretty fast clip.

Then, as we got back to the Senate, it was the same old thing. We met with Senator Udall again. He reiterated the fact that his objections to the legislation took away individual rights. He felt it was totally unconstitutional. He indicated there was no way he could support the legislation, and that he would have to seek a presidential veto if in fact it did make it through both Houses. In a way, that was kind of a dead-end. But we kept on.

Our two senators, on their own, introduced their own bill, which mirrored the bill that AFN overwhelmingly voted down during the previous convention. The AFN Board again met in June. They passed a motion authorizing several actions. This is a really important turning point. The 1991 Steering Committee, which was appointed by the AFN Board, was to continue negotiating under the guidelines of the original resolutions that were passed, trying to reach a good piece of legislation with an acceptable disclaimer. The Committee was given the authority to drop the QTE provision in the legislation if it was deemed necessary for the legislation to proceed. The Committee was also given the authority to deem when that time was. Finally, the Committee was authorized to support the introduction of a AFN Alaska Native Coalition bill if in fact there could be a sponsor that could be found to address the tribal side of that.

We met with the Senate delegation. It became apparent that if we wanted to have the QTE provision included in the bill, we had to have a Senate disclaimer. So in late June the Steering Committee drafted a letter to Senator Murkowski saying basically, “Please pull out the QTE provision in this piece of legislation.” So, Senator Murkowski did. He offered a substitute, and then he put things on hold because the House and the Senate wanted to see what happened at the AFN Convention in October. At that convention, there were numerous panels and discussions on the 1991 legislation. We heard from the delegation about politics surrounding the QTE and the disclaimer. Two resolutions were passed. The first one passed unanimously and that was establish the process and empower the AFN Board to have the final authority and to ask that the legislation be passed quickly. The second one mandated that a QTE provision and an acceptable disclaimer be included in any 1991 legislation that passed Congress. This resolution, introduced on the floor of the AFN convention, failed by a three-to-one vote. At that time that, after four years of working on this issue, people really wanted to have the issues of 1991, the continued restriction of stock and the youth and protection of land. They really wanted those now and maybe later we could go back and address the whole tribal issue.

Well, it wasn’t until five days after the end of the convention that Senator Murkowski and the Senate unanimously passed the legislation with the removal of the QTE. Rather than calling a conference committee, which is normal, the staffs of our congressional delegation and the staffs of the committees involved met. Right before the adjournment for the holidays at Christmas they forwarded the bill to the President who had ten days to either sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Remember that the Department of Interior and Justice and Office of OMB really did not like the legislation, and they said they would fight it tooth and nail and that they would recommend a presidential veto. Our congressional delegation did a tremendous job in working with the leadership at that particular point in time. On February 3, 1988, the 1991 legislation was signed into law and John and Sam and I were going, “Okay, which President signed it in to law in 1988?” It was like, “Okay, was it Bush? Let’s see. If it was after -- no, I think it was Reagan.” Sam finally passed me a 1991 guide and it was President Reagan who signed the legislation into law. So that kind of ended the saga of the 1991 legislation.

I think it is really important for you to hear not so much about the content of the legislation itself but about the process that Alaska Native people used in order to make decisions to pass something and agree on it as a body. The QTE dropping out was unfortunate because it was obvious that the delegates and the people at AFN really wanted to have that as an option, to move the land out of the corporate structure and into a tribal organization. It was kind of like subsistence; it wasn’t in the cards. It wasn’t going to happen. That was one of the regrets of the 1991 legislation, and one of the biggest disappointments. That was where we parted company -- what price do you pay in order to get something included?

Tom Richards: Thank you, Janie. You’ve done a wonderful job of explaining an extremely complex issue of 1991. I finally have the opportunity to make a clarification about what happened during one of those conventions. I walked out on Janie and AFN, but it wasn’t personal. I was leading the delegation from AVCP because the President, due to a family emergency, was not able to be at the convention. Immediately previous to the AFN convention there was a special AVCP convention in which it was directed that if retribalization -- which essentially means transfer of the land from the ANCSA Corporation to the tribal government -- was not available then AVCP was to walk out of AFN. It wasn’t personal.

Janie Leask: It wasn’t okay, but it was okay. I didn’t take it personally.

Tom Richards: You’re talking about some of the terminology. That’s really difficult. Can you imagine folks in villages for whom English is not a first language try to understand what is meant by -- I’ll go through some of these terms here -- adverse possession, alienability restrictions, alienable common stock, collateral, discentive Native, Natives developed land, the Center’s rights, and so forth. It was extremely complicated. One of the comments you made about a term you didn’t care for, New Natives, I think is well taken but you remember what the option was? It was either going to be new Natives or the After-Borns. I think we needed up a little bit better than we had initially. Over breakfast this morning we talked about some of the issues and how divisive they were in terms of 1991, and I was trying to recall one corporation in particular, Bristol Bay. They wanted the opt-out option. After they had the opt out option they kind of thought about it and how expensive it was going to be so they asked to be able to change their minds. Do you remember that?

Janie Leask: I remember that clearly. They fought long and hard about that. In fact, I think when were back in Washington, D.C., at an AFN board meeting there was a call for my resignation.

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