RDC and its membership have been steadfast supporters of legislation to finalize Sealaska’s land entitlements. Unfortunately we were not successful in the last congressional session. Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young have committed to reintroduce the legislation. Senator Begich is playing an important role by providing interested parties the opportunity to express their views about our legislation to him as a newly-elected Senator.
Sealaska is one of 12 Alaska Native regional corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) with over 20,000 tribal member shareholders. Sealaska is entitled to less than one percent or 375,000 acres of the 44 million acres conveyed under ANCSA.
Since 1980, Sealaska has been a major contributor to the economy of Alaska, especially in Southeast, through dividends, revenue sharing, scholarship programs and contributions to Native heritage and cultural programs. Through these contributions, we are a significant economic and cultural contributor to virtually every corner of Alaska. Examples of our regional and statewide contributions include:
- In 2007 Sealaska paid dividends of $12,540,000 to its shareholders and 7(i) revenue sharing payments of $6,700,000 to the rest of Alaska Natives. Section 7(i) of ANCSA requires regional Alaska Native Corporations to share 70% their natural resource profits.
- Sealaska and the Sealaska Heritage Institute spent a combined $41 million in 2007 in Southeast Alaska and provided $563,000 in scholarships.
- Sealaska’s combined ANCSA 7(i) revenue sharing payments exceeds over $315 million since it first began.
- Sealaska’s philanthropy includes contributions to the Morris Thompson Center in Fairbanks, the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
A pivotal requirement for our continued contribution is the passage of federal land legislation we call Haa Aaní. The Tlingit word Haa Aaní refers to our tribal member shareholders’ ancestral tie to their homeland.
Haa Aaní ensures that Sealaska land conveyances meet the promises made in ANCSA. For 38 years Sealaska has been committed to achieving a sustainable Native culture and regional economy. The passage of Haa Aani will allow Sealaska to perpetuate these benefits.
The public frequently asks questions about Sealaska and its land legislation. The following are responses to the most common.
Why is Sealaska interested in Native sacred sites?
Under Haa Aaní Sealaska will use 3,600 acres of its entitlement to acquire title to Native sacred sites in its region. Title to these sites is vital to the preservation of our culture by enabling Natives to assume stewardship of their cultural properties. Sealaska ownership and collaboration with tribes, clan leaders and traditional scholars creates unbreakable bonds of Native identity linked to these culturally significant sacred sites.
Why does Sealaska need legislation to finalize its land claims under ANCSA?
Sealaska was treated very differently from other regional Alaska Native Corporations: Sealaska’s land entitlement was far lower in proportion to the number of original Native shareholders, and the areas from which Sealaska was permitted to select lands were more heavily restricted than other Alaska Native Corporations. Each of the regional Corporations, except Sealaska, received an entitlement to land proportionate to the size of its shareholder population. Sealaska did not receive land in proportion to its population base, in part because of U.S. court of claims cash settlement in 1968 with Tlingit and Haida for lands taken to create the Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay National Monument. This $7.5 million cash settlement did not adequately compensate Southeast Natives; so we were allowed a small land settlement through ANCSA. Haa Aaní does not give Sealaska any additional land than it is entitled to under ANCSA. The legislation allows the corporation to select other lands from the Tongass that will further the economic, social and cultural needs of its shareholders.
What about public access “to and through” Sealaska lands?
Sealaska proposes to guarantee unprecedented public access for subsistence and recreational activities on all economic development lands acquired through its legislation. Haa Aaní includes multiple road and trail easements to guarantee that the public can travel to neighboring Tongass National Forest lands and communities.
What are Native Futures Sites?
At Sealaska, we see Native futures sites as an economic stimulus opportunity for the region and for tribal member shareholders. Sealaska has identified 47 sites encompassing 5,000 acres. Sealaska would partner with local tribes, clans, businesses and residents to offer unique cultural tourism, historical and biological research, educational and renewable energy opportunities on futures sites throughout the region.
Why the urgency?
Our communities are in trouble! Sealaska cannot provide for an economicallysustainable future without its full ANCSA land entitlement. The lands Sealaska has identified for economic development are a combination of old-growth and secondgrowth forest lands that will enable our timber program to be sustainable.
Rural communities are in desperate need of sustainable jobs. Our shareholder youth depend on the scholarships and funding provided by the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which in turn is dependent on our timber revenues. The State predicts that Southeast Alaska’s population will decline by 25% in urban areas and over 30% in rural areas by 2030.
Sealaska has a right to select its remaining land entitlement from designated selection areas, but these lands have natural resources that would benefit the public more if left in the Tongass. This is because a suitable selection for our sustainability would come from many small, scattered parcels that when conveyed would break up these larger intact areas, creating fractionated land management.
Sealaska’s Haa Aaní land legislation is one of the most important economic stimulus measures available to Southeast Alaska, and with support, it can be passed in the 111th Congress.
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