SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Sealaska One Step Closer to Receiving Their Full Land Entitlement


June 13, 2013

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Led by Alaskan Congressman Don Young (R-AK), the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday passed H.R. 740, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that will allow the Sealaska Native Corporation to receive its remaining land conveyance under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971.

The House Natural Resources Committee approved and reported out H.R. 740, for consideration by the full Congress, with technical amendments submitted by Young to address items from the State of Alaska and the sporting community. This vote shows bipartisan support in favor of approval, 29-14.

“With passage out of committee today [Wednesday], Sealaska is one step closer to receiving their full land entitlement and completing the federal government’s statutory obligation under ANCSA to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska.  The legislation will ensure that Sealaska Corp. continues to meet the economic and cultural needs of its shareholders,” Rep. Young said.  “I am also pleased that my amendment to address sportsmen’s concerns was accepted by voice vote."

“Congressman Young has been an unwavering champion of this bill, and we thank all members of this committee who supported moving the bill forward to the full House,” said Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh.

H.R. 740 would convey to Sealaska approximately 70,000 acres in the Southeast Alaska region as part of a federal promise to Alaska Natives through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) made law more than 40 years ago. The forests and waterways of Southeast Alaska, some 23 million acres, is the indigenous homeland of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, who for thousands of years have lived and thrived there. The final transfer of land as promised in ANCSA would return less than one-half of 1 percent of those homelands back to the Native people of the region.

“The Tongass National Forest has always been a Native place,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr. “Sealaska is pleased with the progress being made in Congress on the conveyance of acres that will directly contribute to the economic viability of our villages, the perpetuation of our culture, and provide continuing opportunities for our people. We look forward to seeing this promise fulfilled.”

Jacqueline Pata is a Sealaska board member and executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest national organization of American Indians and Alaska Native tribal governments. “As Native people we have made numerous concessions throughout the process and, while we gave up many areas sacred to us and others with potential for economic sustainability, we appreciate the efforts by the House and Senate to craft legislation good for Sealaska tribal member shareholders, our homelands and the public,” she said.

Supporters of the Sealaska land entitlement legislation include Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, the State of Alaska, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the National Congress of American Indians, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Alaska Forest Association, the Intertribal Timber Council, the ANCSA Regional Presidents & CEOs, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. According to a Sealaska news release, there are also numerous other communities, community organizations, and tribes throughout Southeast Alaska and across the United States that are supporters.

Nine communities in southeast Alaska have have said they oppose the bill that would allow the Alaska Native-owned corporation of Sealaska to acquire some 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest, arguing the bill could threaten their livelihoods.

In March 2013, these nine communities called the bill “unfair and morally repugnant". The towns pointed out that the bill would “create a new injustice against us” in the name of righting a wrong against them that was settled in 1971 when ANCSA passed.

The Southeast communities opposed to the Sealaska Lands Bill include Thorne Bay, Cape Pole, Hollis, Naukati, Whale Pass, Kupreanof, Port Protection, Edna Bay and Point Baker.

 H.R. 740 now heads to the House floor for consideration by the full House. A similar bill is currently moving through the U.S. Senate and will be marked up and considered in committee next week.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Sources of News: 

Office of Congressman Don Young


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