The Sealaska Bill Should Die
By Rebecca Knight
April 18, 2013
Everyone knows S. 340 is unnecessary. Native claims in Alaska were settled in 1971 per the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Sealaska could finalize its land selections immediately, completely uncontested. Those selections, on file with the BLM since 2008, simply need a political push and a little corporate will. Instead, Sealaska has chosen to stall and cherry pick.
Most disturbing, the bill will set a precedent for other Alaska native corporations to reopen their claims, completely unraveling ANCSA. This could herald a new era in our State. Sealaska General Counsel Jayleen Araujo previously admitted as much to Wrangell citizens (click here) and in response to a question during a formal Senate hearing (click here) two years ago. And Sealaska, in their February press release claimed the bill would only “partially” address their so-called withdrawal area “inequities”.
It is widely seen this bill is political payback for Sealaska raising $1.9 million for Senator Murkowski’s write-in campaign. Political favors are dishonest.
Moreover, it wrongly allocates an extra 7,000 acres instead of the 63,605 acres the BLM has estimated Sealaska is entitled under ANCSA.
The omnibus hearing on April 25 will vet eighteen bills, including S. 340 in about two hours. This leaves the impression that the hearing is pure theatre, a deal has been prearranged and that pushing this bad legislation forward is a mere formality likely tied to a quid pro quo. The significant changes to this legislation from earlier versions deserve a full and fair hearing. The few minutes allocated are insulting to Alaskans and it is clear those precious minutes, if any, will be assigned to an advocate for the bill, not those representing opposing views.
The bill should stand alone on its own merits, of which there are none - beyond lining the pockets of the Sealaska Board. It swindles the American people in favor of a single corporation whose board earns six digit incomes while its shareholders (FaceBook link) squander in poverty.
Finally, there has been absolutely no publicly available appraisal of the taxpayer-funded benefits this private corporation will receive above the original acreage granted by ANCSA, but shocking revelations (click here) provide a clue. Sealaska was guaranteed lands, not monumental profits. I shudder to think of the consequences if my family ran our small business in the irresponsible manner our government may potentially allow pubic lands and funds to simply be squandered away.
An investigation should be immediately launched regarding Congress’ lack of accountability and the unprecedented access this corporation has been granted to our legislators.
Received April 18, 2013 - Published April 18, 2013
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