Alaska Natives were forced to operate in a very unfamiliar environment when they entered the land claims process. Lives were changed and career paths altered in ways that no-one had anticipated. People had to communicate with a variety of personalities, and in some cases rely on them for help with little basis for trust. The lobbying process took both time and money, and took leaders away from home for extended periods. Not all of the people lobbying for the settlement had the same agendas. When you listen to the speakers in this unit you may find conflicting non-Native points of view about what was best for Alaska Natives, and what the settlement should look like.
At the completion of Module 5 a student will be able to
- Describe the makeup of Congress during the land claims time period and how individual personalities and partisan politics impacted the process of passing a land settlement bill.
- Explain the committee structure of Congress as it related to a land claims settlement.
- Compare at least two different ANCSA legislative drafts.
- Identify at least five members of Congress that had substantial influence on the ANCSA legislative process.
- Explain a major difference between the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1970 and the version of the legislation that was passed into law in 1971.
Module 5 reading assignment:
- Mitchell: Chapter 4, “Nineteen Seventy,’ pp. 269-335
- President Richard M Nixon. “Special Message to the Congress on Indian Affairs.’ July 8, 1970. On-line at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=2573&st=Alaska+Native&st1=%20
- Congressional Record — Senate, July 14-15, 1970
- “General agreement among Alaska Native leaders with Emil Notti.’ Tundra Times, Feb. 13, 1970. On-line at: https://www.alaskool.org/projects/ancsa/articles/tundra_times/TT19_Genl_Agreement_ENotti.htm
- Stevens, Sen. Ted. “ANCSA was my baptism of fire.’ In: A Scrapbook History: Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Tundra Times, 1991. On-line at: https://www.alaskool.org/projects/ancsa/ancsa_scrapbook/scr00002.htm
Unit five provides a comparison of viewpoints and examines the lobbying process that was so vital to passage of the Act. During the years of negotiation that took place several different drafts of the legislation succeeded each other before President Richard Nixon signed the final document into law in 1971. The ANCSA text of 1970, also known as Senate Bill 1830, passed the Senate but was never voted on in the House. This is perhaps a good thing because S.B. 1830 offered considerably less land than the over 44 million acres agreed upon in the final 1971 version.
Congress has a life of its own and once a bill goes into its halls it becomes subject to all the political variables that the different members of the reviewing committees bring to the table. Items get removed to satisfy the interests of Senators or Representatives whose constituencies are very far removed from those of the person promoting the original legislation. Personal preferences are brought to the table such as those expressed by Senator Henry Jackson in the quote at the beginning of your reading by Mitchell for this unit. Experience from the home state colors the lenses of Senators like Gordon Allott from Colorado who wanted assurance that no language in the bill would lead to the re-opening of Indian claims to land elsewhere in the nation.
As Mitchell points out (page 270), the length and complexity of the language in bills coming before Congress had increased so much since the 1950s that it was no longer possible for members of committees to fully read and understand everything that came before them. In the case of ANCSA the content required in depth knowledge of federal Indian law as well as understanding of public land law and corporate law all three of which are specialized subjects. Members of Congress were heavily reliant on staff and expert consultants to help them understand and interpret content before making decisions.
The conference committees that discussed bills before they went to a vote on the floor were highly partisan and an up or down vote or promise to support a bill often had more to do with how the promoter of the bill had voted on past issues than with the current content. This was the case with ANCSA and much of what went on behind the closed doors of committees did not include any direct input from Alaska Native leaders.
This Unit looks at different drafts of ANCSA. The State and several members of Congress were very much against a settlement including large amounts of land for Alaska Natives. Discuss some of the reasons why there was so much resistance to a large land settlement.
- Donald C. Mitchell
- Senator Henry “Scoop’ Jackson
- Senator Fred Harris
- Eben Hopson
- John Borbridge, Jr.
- Senator Ted Stevens Alaska Native Land Claims
Video & Audio:
1. Donald C. Mitchell — Land Claims Movement and passage of ANCSA
2. Senator Ted Stevens discusses the Land Claims Settlement Act.
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