My Turn: Native Claims Settlement Act a road block to American dream

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

I marvel at the fact we now live in a time when modern technology continues to advance research work, where remarkable inventions improve the world's economic environment; however, it appears for many that technology hardly did anything to help the poor and the oppressed within society, while others enjoy the luxury that comes with it.

Perhaps, one day, it might help us to finalize this historic "I have a dream" message that the late Martin Luther King Jr., gallantly cried out in America. That one day: "All men, whatever persuasion, will someday come and sit at the table of justice and democracy to equally share the promise of life; liberty; and the pursuit of happiness here in America."

Of course, his resounding and tumultuous voice still echoes over the mountain tops; in the cities; at the highways; from various pulpits; and finally, at the White House here in America.

Unfortunately, here in Alaska, a difficult road block was set up between Natives and this sacred dream, in the form of our 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act itself. But it's all summed in the fact that it failed to secure the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for Natives. For this reason, it can only be viewed as a law that failed to meet standard-type constitutions used by civilized nations around the world.

Instead, it resembles a man who has the natural ability to miss what was intended for him to have. Of course, just writing about the nature of this law alone cannot convince its constituents concerning this matter. However, out of all practicality, it can only be resolved with a healthy dispute set up at a special constitutional convention here on ancestral lands, not at the White House. Basically, we learned by wisdom, a house is built; by understanding, it is established; and by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3-4).

Of course, our own Tlingit/Haida patriarchs also taught us that a good law should be constructed like a sturdy house, built with tempered framework material and solid rock foundation. However, we know that ANCSA is a house which was built by the man called Jack, who is also a very intelligent craftsman. But it appears he built it in such a a way that Natives could eventually correct it by building a much better house somewhere in the future. He did this so that we, Natives, can also secure all the things that they have as the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity in a new law sooner than later. This is why I do not hesitate to use the press and free speech, and it helps me to reach our silent ANCSA constituents on this issue.

But I realize that maverick factions prefer to see the Empire publish only letters that meet excellent literary compositions. But this appears true so that they can eliminate simple free-speech letters of platitude otherwise distasteful and extremely repetitive, dull and unsavory as voices in the wilderness.

But it doesn't matter, simply because the press and free speech cannot be limited on their behalf. In fact, we can use it to set up a dialogue to help remove the road block involved and to facilitate the good side that the ANCSA of 1971 offers Native Alaskans.

Finally, perhaps it will excite your interest to know that we do have an excellent model blueprint example material we can use all rolled up in Native history in the form of our beloved Alaska Native Brotherhood organization of 1912. Today we can take hold of it as a tool to help this confused Native generation to resolve this issue and to summon the self-determination law to do what is right.

It appears, for this reason, the framers of our ANB Camp used the Bible as its foundation specifically Matthew 12:50. As a result, we can also view this camp as a disciple of truth and justice by way of John 8:31 and 32. Of course, just no other way we can complete the quest for freedom which began in 1912. But we do give providence the credit for honoring the childlike faith that our ANB founding fathers had demonstrated in 1912. Thank you.

• Franklin "Shkane" Williams Sr. of Juneau is a Southeast Alaska Native military veteran and member of ANB Camp 10.

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