Unite, landless shareholders

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm targeting this letter to all landless Sealaska shareholders, and encouraging them to exercise their political leverage as a voting bloc with the five landless communities. For too long they have been short-changed from their due allotment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. This is equivalent to any group of people settling a class-action legal suit, with only one-third of them receiving full compensation.

Right now, the U.S. Senate race in Alaska has national implications, and is the focus of both parties' national senatorial committees. Your coalition would obtain the attention of a candidate who along with their party can sponsor a bill to amend ANCSA. What that will entail should be determined later, but as 33 years of history have shown it probably will not include land, neither party has shown an inclination to support new Native corporations with land. Democrats have shown a willingness to assist Natives, if it doesn't involve allocating land from the Tongass, and Republicans likewise have no intention of assisting the landless Natives with land in the Tongass or anywhere.

The gamble of course lies in backing the right horse and hoping they don't renege on the arrangement. Republicans may feign confidence with regard to keeping Senate control, but they know that's far from certain. Sen. Stevens, despite the fact he is not up for re-election, is vulnerable because his current position as Senate Appropriations chairman may be in the balance of the Senate race here in Alaska.

What all this means is the landless are in a unique position to negotiate with both party and candidate, because you do have a voice, especially as a voting bloc. During the last landless movement there was the establishment of the Southeast Alaska Land Acquisition Coalition (SEALAC), but no congressional bill was produced. This situation differs because this is pre-election, and not everything is contingent upon a timber bill. The only area all need to agree upon at this time is the establishment of corporations. Forget partisanship and remain on the political fence; loyalty and support should be reciprocal but sometimes you have to negotiate for it. It's possible to influence the outcome of the election, perhaps the balance of power in the Senate and neither party would bet against it.

John Perkins


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