SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Florian Sever


June 20, 2011

In the June 15th SitNews commentary by Sealaska’s Rosita Worl, she raised many interesting points about the proposed Sealaska Lands Bill, and what it means. 

First, she implied in her piece that the selections of remaining lands due them, have been held up by the government. This is true, but only to the extent that Sealaska CEO John Borbridge ASKED that they be held up, in 1971, and again, in 1975.  This is documented fact, and part of the record.  So, what Rosita is saying is a “half-truth”.  The full truth is that Sealaska could have had their lands conveyed to them long ago, but asked to have their land choices put “on hold” while Sealaska tried to get a sweeter deal.

Second, she writes that, “…. a century of U.S. ownership has made us paupers in our homelands, a rainforest more vast than any other in North America.”  She, and the other Directors of Sealaska, as well as its top paid management, are certainly not paupers.  They live “high on the hog”.  It has not been the government that has made the Sealaska shareholders “paupers” in her eyes; the Directors and top management of Sealaska, deserve the blame here.  They are the ones who have mismanaged the corporation and driven it to the doorstep of bankruptcy, on at least one occasion. But for the fact that the government interceded and passed special legislation, so that they could sell Net Operating Losses, Sealaska Corporation would have been bankrupt long ago.

Rosita also makes the claim that, “….latent colonial attitudes continue even in the 21st century to treat us like children who cannot manage the lands that we managed since time immemorial.”  A close, objective examination of the facts would show that the exact opposite is true.  The Sealaska Corporation Board has “cooked” the Board of Directors election, and proxy voting procedures, to shut out opposing views, and virtually assure that the current ruling dynasty keeps power forever.  Isn’t this paternalistic and condescending?  The Sealaska Board treats their shareholders like ignorant children who can’t govern themselves, and can’t handle a free and open election process.  Rosita is one of the ones who treat their shareholders like ignorant children who can’t govern themselves and “the Board” knows better what to do.

Rosita Worl is a leader at Sealaska Corporation, but she’s off on the wrong track.  Sealaska needs to take a step back, and think what really is best for its shareholders, and for the land.  More massive clear cuts, and cherry-picking all the best hunting and fishing spots, anchorages and sockeye streams, and public cabin sites under the guise of them being “sacred and cultural”, is not the way to go into the 21st century.

The U.S. Senate’s Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act (S. 730) and related legislation in the House (H.R. 1408) should be defeated or withdrawn.  It will serve only to cause greater damage to the Tongass, and more and stronger dissention among ALL its people.

Florian Sever
Sitka, AK


About: "Florian Sever is a long-time union and environmental activist. He was a pulp mill worker at Sitka's Alaska Pulp Corporation, and was fired by APC for testifying before Congress, in favor of the Tongass Timber Reform Act."

Received June 19, 2011 - Published June 20, 2011


Related Viewpoint:

letter Southeast Alaska’s Native people wait 40 years for return of their land By Rosita Worl

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