Loss of Native Lands
By Rosita Worl, Publisher, Alaska Native News, v.3 (July 1985), p. 2

"Loss of Native Lands", Rosita Worl, Publisher, Alaska Native News, v.3 (July 1985), p. 2. Used with permission of the publisher, for educational purposes only.

The fears of Alaska Natives that they may lose their aboriginal lands may be an immediate reality. A common assumption is that loss of land is not possible until 1991. At that time, the restrictions on the alienation of stock in Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 will be removed.

Haida Corporation is the first Native corporation to file for bankruptcy. The Southeast Alaska Native village corporation of Hydaburg filed for protection from its creditors on May 15 under Chapter II of the federal bankruptcy code. The corporation pledged 23,000 acres as collateral for nearly $4.3 million in loans.

Land is essential for the survival of Native people as distinct tribal people. This is an absolute. Our ancestors and their ancestors before them lived on the land. It is our heritage and it is the heritage we must leave for our grandchildren. We have survived as a distinct people because of the ties we maintain with members of our tribe and because of our ties to our land. Land is essential to the Native way of life.

We cannot lose our land and we must not allow one village to lost its lands. If one village can lose its lands, we can only assume that it is possible that it will also happen to other villages. We must do everything to prevent the loss of Native land. We must support the Haida Corporation in their effort to persuade the federal government to allow a land swap if this action will allow them to retain their lands.

However, we cannot assume that a land exchange in the Haida case forecloses the possibility that other Native corporations will not lose their lands. Corporations can lose land. Native people must not lose their lands. It is imperative that we examine every action of our corporations to ensure that they are not jeopardizing our land base. We must also study the resolutions to the possible alienation of Native land and propose to Congress measures that will forever protect our land.


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