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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Three  -  Page 13
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Tom Richards: The next question is for John Shively. Will ownership of corporate lands, surface and subsurface, come together under one entity? If so, when? Which entity? Will it be tribes? I don’t think folks are aware that the surface estate, in most situations, is owned by the village corporation and the subsurface, the mineral estate, is owned by the regional corporation.

John Shively: In a couple of cases actually this has already occurred -- in Ahtna and NANA, where the villages merged with the region and so the surface and subsurface merged. In each case, all but one of the villages was put back together under the corporate structure. I really, however, doubt that, absent something like, that it will be reunited. You would have to want to do away with all corporations in order to achieve that goal, and I think that would be unfortunate. I have, for a long time, supported tribal governments; they are very important tools. They have a lot to offer that has not yet been recognized by the state or federal governments. But I think undoing the Settlement Act totally to get there would be a huge mistake. I think corporations have a certain advantage that tribes don’t. Part of it is that tribal governments tend to rely on the federal government for financing and that is a year-to-year proposition. Very often, a lot of what tribal governments do has a year-to-year horizon. Corporations can take a much longer view in terms of how they want to invest their funds and what they want to achieve. I mean, they’re both tools. I think they’re both, used correctly, valuable tools. I would not want to see one done in at the expense of the other.

Audience Member: Let me just add one thing to that. If you follow what happened at AFN when they tried to negotiate a settlement for rock, sand and gravel, when some corporations wanted to turn rock, sand and gravel over to the village corporations so they wouldn’t have it as an asset, it was an ongoing battle. I wouldn’t doubt that it’s still a battle within some regions, because some regions don’t want to give up any of the subsurface estate even to the villages. That fight continues. Some corporations have already done it, but others just aren’t going to do it. It’s an individual choice. That’s the kind of problem you’re going to have when you start talking about transferring assets.

Tom Richards: We’ve got three more questions. This one is for Sam. After the April vote on subsistence, and I assume this is within the Municipality here, and the people vote yes, what would the next step on the subsistence issue be?

Sam Kito: Well, I think the Native community should spend some assets on this election and get that vote out there, because without that vote, the nay-sayers are going to use it as a basis, because you’re going to have a discussion. I’ve been a backer of putting an advisory vote on the ballot statewide if we believe people out there will support it. If there isn’t any money being spent, they’d better spend some money, because were going to be further in the hole if that ballot goes down. The Outdoor Council and some of them are going to be spending money to try to defeat it. If it passes, it gives us a little bit of movement towards pushing legislators, but to lose it would be devastating.

Tom Richards: This next to last question is for Guy Martin, and I’ll paraphrase. During the time when ANCSA was being considered and acted upon by Congress, 1969 to 1971, the Menomonee Indian tribe was trying to undo its corporate model of ownership. Were you aware of this and would you like to comment about it?

Guy Martin: I was not aware of it at the time. I’ve since become aware of it. It would be interesting to know if any of the Native representatives were aware of that happening. All I can say, again, is that from the standpoint of receiving information from Alaska, both from the state and from the Native community, it was pretty unequivocal that the corporate model was the way to go. I definitely subscribe to Janie’s feeling that a good bit of that was a healthy respect for the incompetence of the BIA.

Tom Richards: The Natives were well aware of it. I was back in D.C. at the time and we heard it constantly from folks like NCERA and tribal leadership throughout the country, but we still pursued the ANCSA model.

Audience Member: One thing. You’ve probably gone through the history about up to the passage, I guess, and now we’re talking about the implementation. I think that when you’re in the process of negotiating a deal with Congress, there’s no question that the power lies within the delegation of the state that is putting the package together. When we got to the end, we had our allies on our delegation. We have our enemies too, which included the Governor. They have the ability to cut a deal, and that’s what happened right at the end. The substance of the deal is not important, it’s a process if you watch happen. The results of that deal were passed to John Borbridge I believe it was John who got it. He picked it up the same night that the Pentagon papers blew through the hotel. At any rate, the substance of the deal was leaked to us by Senator Gravel. We took that, but we knew we couldn’t go back into the delegation, because the delegation was sworn to a deal. At that time, we were told by Eben Hopson, who was a special assistant for Governor Egan that the governor’s door is always open. It might have been open, but we couldn’t find it, because he moved hotels. So anyway, we gave it to Lloyd Meads, one of our other friends outside the delegation. They had a meeting the next morning and he went in waiving this piece of paper. I think our delegation to the governor wondered where in the hell he got that from. But anyway, you know, there are imaginations and there are process problems, but the end result is a pretty flexible AFN that’s able to make decisions on a timely basis and there’s no question that they do look out for all Natives -- all Natives in Alaska.

Tom Richards: Final question. We’ll let Janie have the last word here, otherwise we won’t hear the end of it. And then I’ll have the other last word. Under ANCSA the villages have the option of organizing either as a profit corporation or a non-profit corporation. Not one village organized as a non-profit. Why do you think that was the case, Janie?

Audience Member: I know the answer.

Janie Leask: Oh, you know the answer? See, I wasn’t around at that time.

Audience Member: The answer actually is relatively simple. When we were busy looking at the structures and how they would work, it was determined that under non-profit law, non-profit corporations could not make distributions to their members, but for-profit corporations could distribute dividends. That was the key reason why people recommended that the corporate structure be used for villages -- so that if there were monies to be distributed, they could be distributed to the shareholders.

Tom Richards: Thank you, everybody. I’d like to thank the university and the museum for allowing us this space. This is an appropriate venue for our ANCSA Remembered Series, because Howard Rock’s original manual typewriter is in this building. I have many fond memories of that. I’d also like to thank you folks for honoring my cousin Laura today.

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