"1991: Group Rights Versus Individual Rights"
By Rosita Worl, Publisher, Alaska Native News, v.3, April 1985, p.2

"1991: Group Rights Versus Individual Rights, " Rosita Worl, Publisher, Alaska Native News, v.3, April 1985, p.2. Used with permission of the publisher, for educational purposes only.

The 1991 dilemma is basically a conflict between two disparate cultures. Tribal societies evolved around group rights while western societies adopted an individualist ideology. Land is owned communally in Native societies and individually in western societies. Common ownership and utilization of the land and resources served to unite the tribe.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act represents a cultural encounter between two differing societies. ANCSA conveyed fee simple title to corporate entities in which stock is owned by individual Natives. It made no provisions to guarantee Natives born after 1971 access to land and it allowed non-Natives to inherit stock. In 1991, the restriction on ANCSA stock will be lifted.

The 1991 issues, as Natives have defined them, revolve around the potential loss of land through the alienation of stock, loss of control of corporations which hold title to Native land and exclusion of Natives born after 1971. The Alaska Federation of Native 1991 has formulated eight resolutions which offer varying solutions to these problems. The resolutions also call for approval of the issues by a vote of the shareholders.

As Native people intensify their discussions on the 1991 issues, we should be aware of the implications of the conflicting ideology between individual and group rights. Many differences among Alaska Natives exist. However, common to all Alaska Native societies was an ownership system of land that promoted the survival of the tribal group. No Native society excluded their young from access to tribal land and its resources. The 1991 issues and resolutions as they are currently proposed will allow Native shareholders to vote on the destiny as tribal people. Our decisions will affect, not only ourselves, but the future generations of Native people.

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