Native values and ownership of land

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I have heard a lot of discussion recently about whether our young people should become part of our corporation, Sealaska. It is very important for young people to be part of Sealaska, and I say without hesitation it is their traditional right.

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We have owned and occupied Southeast Alaska since time immemorial. Our ancestors guarded our ownership of these lands for future generations. We went to Congress to protect our ownership of our land. Congress created Native corporations to hold our lands, but only individuals who were alive when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed in 1971 received stock in Sealaska Corp. This was a violation of our traditional customs which hold that children have a right to share in the ownership of our lands.

I was here when our people first began the land claims effort through the Alaska Native Brotherhood Act in 1929, and I can tell you that our leaders did not fight for only one generation of Natives to hold title to our land. We all thought about the ownership of our land, the protection of our culture and our future generations. Those bold leaders were fighting for our children's traditional rights when they said, "We must remember our children - it is for our children that we strive to keep our land."

We now have the opportunity to rectify a wrong and to protect our cultural values through a vote on three resolutions that will be brought to Sealaska shareholders this spring. Support of these resolutions will honor our traditions and ensure that our shareholder descendants and future generations will continue to share in the ownership of our land, and they will ensure the survival of our Native values and culture.

Walter Soboleff

Juneau



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