ANCSA: 1971

Thomas Berger in "Village Journey": The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act "places the land in fee title, it makes the land alienated and taxed." To the natives, land is inalienable; to western culture it is an opportunity to receive economic gain. Natives received 44 million acres- 10% of Alaska total land mass, plus 962.5 million dollars. The financial settlement works out to be not so significant, for each at-large shareholder received $6525 and each villager received $375. The land act has been declared by some to be "social engineering." Congress insisted that economic gain must be principal in improving social and economic circumstances within the villages and intended for the natives to become integral in Alaskan economy. The Natives feel that the laws are not necessary because they have existed in the arctic for so long without these laws-they live by their own laws; the laws of the land. Catch limits are deemed inappropriate because the natives would not have survived for so long if they hadn't paid respect to the land. State-chartered Native corporations now hold native land as private land fee simple. AFN stated that Congress's 1971 expectation of subsistence protections by state and federal administrators went unfulfilled. "The decade of the 1970's saw a series of state laws, regulations and court decisions that steadily took fish and game from the poorest and most traditional people in the US and handed them to the urban, non-subsistence majority, which controlled state policy by the weight of its vote."

Douglas Kemp Mertz for the Anchorage Daily News: The watershed legislation for Alaska Natives was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act ("ANCSA") of 1971, 43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.. Although there had been litigation over Native land claims for years, pressure for an overall settlement of Native claims did not come until the discovery of large quantities of oil on Alaska's North Slope. The need to remove obstacles to development of the oilfields and to construction of a trans-Alaska pipeline to take the oil to markets in the contiguous states caused Congress to address the claims with a final and far-reaching settlement.

ANCSA organized Alaskan Natives into twelve regional corporations, loosely designed along ethnic and geographical lines, plus one corporation for Alaskan Natives living outside the state; and village corporations for each "Native village" with a predominantly Native character and a Native population of at least 25. Over 200 Native villages eventually organized ANCSA corporations under the state business corporation code, as did a number of urban Native groups. The regional and village corporations received the right to over 44 million acres of land, and they and their members received nearly $1 billion in monetary payments. In return, all aboriginal claims to lands and any aboriginal hunting and fishing rights in Alaska were extinguished.

ANCSA was the high tide of assimilationism in Alaska. Congress explicitly rejected any role in receiving or administering ANCSA benefits for existing village councils and other groups organized under the Alaskan IRA. Instead, it required organization under corporations created under state law and subject to state regulation. Eventually all land conveyed under ANCSA was to be subject to state taxation. Village corporations were required to convey a portion of their lands to the state-chartered municipality in the community, or if none existed, to the state in trust for a future municipality. And all but one of the existing reservations in the state were terminated. Congress stated in the preamble to the law that

the settlement should be accomplished . . . without establishing any permanent racially defined institutions, rights, privileges, or obligations, without creating a reservation system or lengthy wardship or trusteeship, and without adding to the categories of property and institutions enjoying special tax privileges...

The Department of the Interior has consistently interpreted this language and the other provisions cited above as ending its trustee duty to former reserve lands in Alaska and as ending its supervisory role over those lands, and has refused to accept ANCSA land into trust status. Since passage of ANCSA the Interior Department has withdrawn much of its presence in rural Alaska. It turned the system of BIA schools over to the state, which now provides all educational services in rural communities, either directly or through municipalities. Most of the rural health care system is now provided by the state. The Interior Department does not maintain BIA personnel in rural communities or administer federal programs as though the villages occupied reservations. State agencies treat Native villages (except Metlakatla) as within the state's criminal, civil, and regulatory jurisdiction.

From Dick and Mary Bishop: "1971 -- ANCSA including Section 4b which extinquishes all aboriginal rights -- including any hunting and fishing rights which might exist."

Taylor Brelsford: "The U.S. Congress settled aboriginal claims of Alaska Natives in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Though no provisions on subsistence appear in the final bill, the legislative history shows that the Congress expected the Secretary of the Interior to use existing powers to protect the subsistence activities of Alaska Natives."

Alaska Federation of Natives Conference guide and agenda: "ANCSA extinguished aboriginal hunting and fishing rights. NO law was enacted on protection of subsistence, but the Conference Report stated Native subsistence and subsistence lands would be protected by the State of Alaska and Dept of the Interior."

University of Alaska Rural Development 255 Course Syllabus: "ANCSA: Native Alaskans reveive 44 million acres of land and nearly $1 billion in exchange for extinguishment of all "claims of aboriginal title...based upon aboriginal use and occupancy,...including any aboriginal hunting or fishing rights that may exist." Legislative history notes that the Congress expected the Sec of the Interior and the state to protect subsistence activities of Alaska Natives."

Heather Noble, Alaska Law Review: "To meet the 'immediate need for a fair and just settlement of all claims by Natives and Native groups of Alaska, based on aboriginal land claims' and to accomplish that settlement 'rapidly, with certainty [and] in conformity with the real economic and social needs of Natives, without litigation,' Congress enacted ANCSA. This legislation accomplished two important tasks: (1) it extinguished all claims to Alaska lands based on aboriginal title; and (2) it granted money and land selection rights to a set of corporations established pursuant to the Act, the stock of which is held by Natives throughout the state."

Scott Ogan, Representative in the Alaska State Legislature: This act paid nearly one billion dollars and gave millions of acres of land to the Native People of Alaska as a full and final settlement. This act is similar to a treaty, therefore taking precedence over any previous or consequent laws of Congress. "Section 4 of the Act, which was a contract or settlement between the Native people of Alaska and the State and Federal governments, said that by accepting the settlement, all claims of the Native people to special hunting and fishing rights were forever extinguished! Section 4 (b) of the Act states that: 'All aboriginal titles, if any, and claims of aboriginal title in Alaska based on use and occupancy, including submerged land underneath all water areas, both inland and offshore, and including any aboriginal hunting and fishing rights that may exist, are hereby extinguished.'"

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