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Letter: Sealaska bill is a can of worms

Posted: June 22, 2011 - 8:22pm  |  Updated: June 22, 2011 - 8:31pm

Jaeleen Araujo, Sealaska vice-president and general counsel recently denied in a Juneau Empire opinion article that the other 11 regional corporations could use their proposed legislation as precedent to reopen land claims in Alaska. Sealaska is “perplexed” that this remains an issue. However, her comments in various public forums tell a different story.

Only last month Araujo flatly contradicted her op-ed. During a question and answer period regarding the Sealaska bill, she proclaimed before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, “I also would submit that if other regions have similar inequities or problems in their region then they should present those to congress and have a similar public process that we are going through - to have their issues, I guess, judged and identified and to determine if they have a right to have some congressional action as well.” Her statement is on the Congressional record.

Last year she again offered solid support for revisiting statewide land claims during an April public meeting held in Wrangell — as headlined in the local newspaper — “Sealaska Representative Says Bill Could Serve as Precedent”. Araujo explained, “A lot of land issues in Alaska have lost some traction, and we’re hoping with our bill to lay the foundation to get some things done on Alaska native land issues,”

Only three weeks earlier, Senate staffer and bill supporter Chuck Kleeshulte, told a packed town meeting in Petersburg the exact opposite, “We have talked to all of the heads of other native corporations. They have all agreed that they will not use this bill as a precedent to see that the lands act is re-opened.”

Alaskans are not deceived nor are we perplexed. It is obvious to every person who heard Ms. Araujo’s remarks before local residents and Congress that Sealaska will indeed open a can of worms with S 730. Once one worm gets out, all the rest will follow.

And if Sealaska is able to reopen ANCSA with this bill, no doubt every other statewide regional corporation will be back in DC next year seeking changes. It’s time to end the limbo and discord in our communities and tell Sealaska to complete the selections they already have on file.

Rebecca Knight

Petersburg

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