Reparation, not discrimination

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2005

This is in response to the letter about Sealaska's "racist job ad." I write to educate those, like Mr. Wirtz, who know nothing of tribal sovereignty or the history and purpose of Native corporations.

There have never been any treaties between the federal government and Alaska Natives. Neither the Treaty of Cession of 1867 (when Russia illegitimately sold Alaska to the United States), the Organic Act of 1884 (replaced the military governance with a civilian government), or the Statehood Act attempted to resolve Alaska Native land claims. It wasn't until 1969 when the government prompted to resolve this issue.

In 1969, oil was found in Prudhoe Bay. The discovery created a ruckus among oil companies who wanted to drill and build the pipeline. However, they were unwilling to do so until land claims were resolved. The federal government received $562 million from oil corporations to push this initiative. In December of 1971, President Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act without a vote from the Alaska Natives or Alaska people.

ANCSA granted Alaska Natives title to 40 million acres of land and $1 billion to extinguish their land claims. A total of $462.5 million was to be paid from a newly formed Alaska Native fund by the federal government and an additional $500 million to come from state mineral tax revenues. This was to be paid within a 10-year period and wasn't done by paying tribal governments or individual Natives. It was done through establishing Native regional corporations.

These corporations were required by law to become for-profit businesses. All profits were to be split and shared amongst all regional corporations to help pay for Native health care, education and housing.

This setup of corporate organization was to provide jobs and/or dividends to its Native shareholders as compensation for the loss of land. The realities of the corporations are that they were not only for-profit businesses, but they were also responsible for improving the social and economic status of Alaska Natives.

Sealaska's philosophy (as stated on their Web site) is to: protect and grow our corporate assets to provide economic, cultural and social benefits to current and future generations of our shareholders.

It's not discrimination. It's a form of reparation and recognition of our right to (political and economic) tribal sovereignty.

I thank the Sealaska Corp. for the financial and moral support that help pay for my college education.

Jennifer Hanlon


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