By Don Hernandez
March 29, 2010
The fiction begins with the notion that Sealaska has in some way been prevented from completing their land selection for the past 39 years. In fact they have chosen not to select land which is available to them in anticipation of getting more valuable land through congressional action.
The land which is presently available to them is not designated roadless. In fact it is designated for transfer to Sealaska Corporation. Under provisions to the Native Claim Settlement Act they have identified land within the present withholding areas from which they will complete their claims. The finalization of their claims is on hold pending attempts from our delegation to change the act.
The present forest plan anticipates that all Native corporation land holdings will be within boundaries set in the 1971 claims act. Granting Sealaska the land they are requesting in this bill will disrupt all other uses in the forest plan for Prince of Wales Island.
Senator Murkowski seems to have imagined in her op/ed that promises have been broken in the past in regards to Native land claims. This is an outrageous statement which requires an apology to the american people. If there is any promise which is broken, it is that communities surrounded by public land, which is used by everyone for many uses could expect land which was never a part of the Native Claims Settlement Act to remain in public ownership.
She also imagines that there are only a few details of this legislation which need to be resolved in order to fix it. Only in her dreams is that true. This legislation is totally unacceptable to a wide cross section of Southeast residents. The very premise of the bill, that Sealaska was treated unfairly and has been denied land it is due is invalid. It is unjustified to disrupt existing communities and businesses in favor of one corporation.
This legislation is not about aboriginal rights, it is special interest politics, plain and simple, and Senator Murkowski's efforts to mischaracterize the issues, and marginalize the opposition will not go unchallenged. Senate bill 881 will continue to be opposed for a number of very valid reasons, and there will be no fairy tale ending to this story.
Received March 25, 2009 - Published March 29, 2010
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