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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Three  -  Page 12
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Tom Richards: The next question is for Sam. Given that financial success has only been a recent development for a number of regional corporations, have we given ANCSA enough time to succeed?

Sam Kito: Well let me just say that I don’t think Ford Motor Company would guarantee not to build another Edsel, and RCA wouldn’t guarantee not to go bust on computers. There are going to be failures, but it’s the ability to recover from failures that creates success in the long run.

I do think the 7(i) issue is an issue that needs to be discussed again, because when we had those discussions, we ended up talking about the “have” corporations and the “have not” corporations. There’s no question that there has to be some equity. We came up with some equity in 7(i), but negotiating 7(i) took over a year. Bryon Mallott had to spend Sealaska’s resources and get the leadership of all12 corporations to sit down and agree to resolve 7(i). 7(i) just about guarantees that there won’t be any failures, because you’re helping each other, and then you get some stability.

Tom Richards: Are we in too much of a hurry to turn our backs on the corporate model and embrace the tribal movement as a solution to village problems?

Sam Kito: I don’t think you’re turning your back on the corporate model. I think you have a number of tribes that are utilizing, in their own structure, the corporate model. The successful tribes in the Lower 48 are utilizing the shareholder/participatory model for leadership elections and distribution of funds. I think the important part is the land and tribes and the QTE. It’s going to be a real mission to get a QTE or to get an entity that you’re going to be able to transfer land to.

Janie Leask: If I could just add something regarding the corporate structure. It was totally foreign to the majority of the entities. If you think of the absurdity of this—just taking the best model that we had at the time, the somewhat modified western corporate model, and plopping it on top of tribal people who don’t make decisions that way, and saying okay, Village X, now you need to hold an annual meeting, elect directors, Robert’s Rules of Order, and file a report with the State Department of Revenue in order to remain in existence. Then you have shareholders who elect officers, so you not only have to campaign, you have to make your shareholders happy and you have to make a profit. It was absolutely foreign to people at the time. Granted, people from southeast had been more exposed. I think they had spent more time doing business the western way. They had an easier transition than some of the other smaller, more remote regional corporations. It was absurd and it was also absurd for us to think that it fit every village in this state.

Tom Richards: The next question is for Guy. Given that ANCSA was largely an offshoot of the civil rights movement, where would Natives be if statehood had been granted 20 years earlier before Native rights was an issue?

Guy Martin: That’s a very good question. I’m guided somewhat by the remarks that were made by people at this constitutional convention celebration. There are a couple of people here who could probably correct me, but I think it was the 15th anniversary of the constitutional convention. It was one of the most remarkable events I went to. They had invited all the governors in Alaska’s history, all the attorney generals, all the Commissions of Natural Resources, and so on, and all of the framers of the constitution. The framers basically described what they had intended in the framing. 75 percent or more of the framers were still alive, so it was the kind of historical opportunity one rarely gets. I recall there was a fairly strong feeling among some of the framers that the constitution was not as kind to Natives as it could have been, although it was certainly much more favorable toward Native rights than it would have been at any time earlier. I guess that was their judgment and that’s my judgment.

I’d say one other thing -- I think sometimes, as we get into these discussions about corporate versus some other kind of organization, there are a couple of things that ought to be emphasized. Number one is that Janie is absolutely right about how one size doesn’t fit all. On the other hand, be clear in your mind that at the time the Settlement Act was passed everybody was clearly in mutual agreement. AFN adopted a resolution asking for this format. It was agreed that this was the way it was going to be.

I often tell a story about the very end of the deliberations of the Settlement Act. We started seeing people in our Congressional offices and Nick Begich’s office who talked about a settlement in which more land was taken in trust, and with the preservation of tribal rights. Now these were clearly dissenters from the AFN. There really was very little prospect that we were going to go for a trust land tribal settlement versus a fee land corporate settlement, but those voices were starting to grow.

So, Tom, your question reversed the other way is if the Settlement Act had taken place five or six or eight years later, I think it would have made a difference. And let me add one other thought, because I think it’s important. The civil rights element of this is very important, because I think most of the people in this room who were involved believed in integration. The goal was not just doing justice for minorities or people who were otherwise oppressed. It was to ultimately integrate society. Now in the African-American issue, I think a lot of ideological integration goals have been lost and they’re very much in danger. I look at ANCSA as a success in that regard. The people sitting here on this panel are evidence of that. I can’t think of a better example of a situation where an aboriginal land claim was settled and the result of it was the integration into a common society -- socially, economically, culturally. Sure, there are lots of problems left, but I think in that sense it was successful.

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