SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


An Open Letter to Senator Bingaman: Sealaska Land Grab
By Myla Poelstra


February 22, 2010
Monday PM

Can you hear the growing chorus of voices sounding the alarm throughout all of Southeast Alaska? One by one over the last few days, city after city within the Alexander Archipelago, and nearly every town in between, have come forward with formal resolutions of opposition or requests for formal congressional hearings. What would make so many different and diverse communities cry out for justice and fair consideration? Something really wrong is happening in Southeast Alaska. That something is a bill known locally as the "Sealaska Land Grab". S.881 ­ Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization Act has been wrapped in a well designed package that looks and sounds very good, but what's inside is greed and total disregard for everyone but themselves.

When I write letters describing the devastating impact this bad legislation will have on the economy of Southeast Alaska, I am telling you the truth. Huge amounts of money have been spent on a very well planned out p.r. campaign selling the outside world with the "economic stimulus" this bill will bring to Southeast. The only ones who will benefit from this stimulus are the people at the top of Sealaska Corporation. This is not for the benefit of the shareholders. Talk to some of them, read what they post on the internet. They are ashamed of the damage their corporation is poised to do. They have friends and neighbors who are living in these "economic development" areas Sealaska wants to obtain. They know hard working fellow Alaskans that are going to go out of business because of the lack of access to the federal areas of the Tongass they have built their livelihood's around.

This bill stands to touch nearly every part of our local economy, but not in the way you are being told. Far from stimulating it; it will destroy it. Sealaska's out of withdrawal area selections are cherry picking the very best sites for lodges, eco tourism, aquaculture, commercial and charter fishing, guiding of every kind, and of course, logging. To do so they are taking the federal lands current businesses are depending on to support their families, and other families throughout the area. These are not corporate supported enterprises. These are mom & pops, family owned businesses that have been here now for generations.

How can a responsible representative stand by and watch something like this happen? How could they possibly support a solution like this? Something is wrong in Southeast Alaska. Why would a district senator feel he needed to coerce city after city he is supposed to be representing? Why would Senator Kookesh announce himself chairman of the board of a corporation he is lobbying for, before he says he's a State Senator?

Something is wrong in Southeast Alaska. And the people here need your help. You are being told that the majority of people polled are in favor of this legislation. Where are they taking their polls? It can't be from this area. If you were to poll the folks from this area, you would find a near unanimous opposition to this legislation. Everyone I have talked to is in favor of Sealaska receiving their land conveyances. All support a quick completion of ANCSA. This latest legislation has been looming over Southeast Alaska for over seven years. But this is not an equitable solution.

We need someone to see through this "spin". Things are not what they appear. Please, either stop this bill in committee, tell Sealaska to complete their entitlements from the lands they agreed to, or come to Southeast Alaska. Hold formal public hearings. Allow everyone living and working in this area to testify. Then you will hear the stories for yourself. You will not have to believe or doubt me. You will know that something is wrong in Southeast Alaska.

Please don't ignore this letter. Many good, hard working Americans, with families to support and properties to pay for are going to be trapped by this bad legislation. Sealaska will not be harmed by the loss of this legislation. They still have adequate lands to select from. The ones they agreed on during the establishment of ANCSA in 1971. The people of Southeast Alaska do not have the same option. They have invested a lifetime of work into what has been built here, and they have nowhere else to go. STOP S.881. It is totally unwarranted legislation.

Myla Poelstra
Edna Bay, Alaska


Received February 22, 2009 - Published February 22, 2010


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