ANCSA was not a 'fair trade'

Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009

Gretchen Goldstein is correct, in her letter to the editor (Empire, July 22, "Land Privatization isn't fair trade"). The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was not a fair trade; in fact, it was not a trade at all.

In 1971, the Alaska Natives were coerced into agreeing to ANCSA, which created Sealaska. In exchange for aboriginal hunting and fishing rights and claims to all the traditional land utilized by Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian, our elders agreed to ANCSA and the creation of Sealaska Corporation.

The people of the United States received almost all other land in Southeast Alaska, and the extinguishment of all aboriginal claims of the indigenous people. Valuable assets indeed - in Southeast alone the U.S. received 17 million acres of Tongass National Forest, Glacier Bay, Misty Fjords and other land and resources for $186 million in cash over a 10-year period, a theoretical 360,000 acres for Sealaska, and whatever land the other village corporations received. That's not a fair exchange at all.

Forty years later, the Native people are still waiting for the settlement to be funded by the U.S. with land it agreed to convey in 1971. Justice delayed is justice denied! Another group, commonly referred to as the "Unrecognized Villages" of Wrangell, Haines, Tenakee, Ketchikan and Petersburg, fell on the U.S. Senate cutting-room floor between drafts, and they received nothing for their aboriginal claims.

These claims have been recognized by the U.S. Congress, and the beneficiaries are also waiting for justice to be served. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her father and predecessor in the Senate are strong supporters of the "Unrecognized Villages," as is Rep. Don Young. They have both introduced legislation to settle with the villages. I hope Sen. Mark Begich joins the effort, and supports these communities also. It is my understanding that the entire delegation supports current legislation expediting Sealaska's land selection.

Since the U.S. has not fulfilled its obligation in this matter, ANCSA should be voided by the United Nations, restoring all aboriginal claims to the indigenous people of Southeast Alaska.

Some people's ignorance of Alaska history should also be a wake-up call to every indigenous person in Southeast, or we will have to fight all these battles again. Goldstein's comments in her letter, and her denial of our elders' sacrifice, is as offensive to the Native community as denial of the Holocaust is to the Jewish community.

Bradley J. Fluetsch

Grand President, Alaska Native Brotherhood

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