Landless issue crucial to Sealaska

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sealaska Corp. is holding its annual meeting in Ketchikan this June, and reminding shareholders, that land is the backbone of our corporation, and our guiding strength. This should give shareholders enrolled in Ketchikan, Tenakee, Wrangell, Petersburg and Haines, a perfect opportunity to voice their distress about being landless. Those on the landless board are encountering barriers they can't seem to perceive.

When asking for land and fishing rights, we alienate both sides; we might as well be asking for a piece of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The fisheries proposal is a decent inclusion, but those on the right would never surrender another slice of that pie. Moreover, those on the left wouldn't agree to anything if it meant taking a tree. Sealaska itself is still trying to gain title to land allotted over 30 years ago. Now, due to earlier Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act restrictions, many corporations are in desperate need of public interest land exchanges.

So unfortunately, for the low priority landless, there simply isn't 115,000 acres of workable Tongass available. In the meantime, over 20 percent of Sealaska is made up of landless shares, thousands of shareholders who aren't even mentioned by the latest slate of nominees. Byron Mallott, Edward Thomas and Rosita Worl are among the most accomplished leaders of this generation and merit a continued seat on Sealaska's board of directors. We need to challenge them to have ANCSA amended to include the landless, and allow them to work for us without the constraints of natural resources. Business is about assets regardless of what that source may be: land, individual fishing quotas, permanent funds or cash money are all corporate assets. The legislation cannot be contingent upon any specific asset or investment; we need to go with what's politically feasible. We need to establish corporations to provide a foundation for our future generations, so they may continue the struggle for southeast resources.

With due respect to the landless board, this is a crucial issue and we need professionals. It's silly to have a handful of self-appointed townspeople making secret unilateral decisions that affect thousands of us. Landless shareholders need to tell Chairman Al Kookesh, you want him to support a resolution to the board, creating a sub-committee dedicated to providing the landless with an equitable settlement. Remember you have nothing to lose; you're already landless.

John Perkins

Southeast Alaska Landless Society


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