Alaska Native leaders like the late Chief Peter John from Minto and the late Andrew Isaac, the traditional chief of Tanacross, provided forceful testimony about encroachments on traditional lands during hearings arranged in 1968 by Senator Ernest Greening. Tanacross filed its first land claim in 1963. Held in Anchorage by the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee these hearings drew Alaska Natives from all over the State. Your reading by Arnold for this unit introduces the hearings and the groups opposing a land settlement for Alaska Natives as well as the leaders already mentioned. Those in opposition were powerful lobbies that had the ear of the State. Your guest for this unit, Barry Jackson, provides the viewpoint of an attorney who worked on the Settlement with a strong interest in supporting and promoting the land rights of Alaska Natives. He represented the Native Village of Minto on lands rights issues before continuing on to work for AFN on the drafting of land claims legislation.
Upon the completion of Module 6 a student will be able to:
- Describe the experiences of at least five individual Alaska Native leaders during the legislative process to secure a land claims settlement.
- Recognize at least two major obstacles encountered in the lobbying process for a land settlement bill.
- Describe at least two major challenges Alaska Native leaders faced in working in the national political environment.
Module 6 reading assignment:
- Arnold: Unit 4, Chapter 17, “A Legislative Settlement.’
- On-line at: https://www.alaskool.org/projects/ancsa/landclaims/LandClaimsTOC.htm
- Mitchell: Chapter 5, “ANCSA,’ pp. 337-417
- Gallagher: Chapters 13-15, pp. 213-250
- President Richard Nixon, Statement About Alaska Natives’ Claims Bill. On-line at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=2967&st=Alaska+Native&st1=%20
Working in a foreign political environment is never easy even when all participants support the same goals. When participants disagree on goals and outcomes and the environment is hostile unusual remedies are sometimes seriously considered. When Emil Notti delivered his speech to the Small Tribes of Western Washington on February 7, 1970 his suggestion of Native secession and the formation of a separate country for Alaska Natives in western Alaska expressed the frustrations felt by all in dealing with a political system that had so often ignored their most basic rights. While not all the Alaska Native leadership agreed completely with Notti many found some value and strength in what he was proposing.
There were some Alaska Natives who already had experience dealing with the federal government over land claims. The Tlingit and Haida had filed their original claim over land in the Tongass National Forest during the late 1930s and William Paul, a Tlingit attorney who had spearheaded this effort spent significant time tutoring Don Wright in legal matters and how to operate in Washington. (Mitchell, page 341)
Operating within a system that depended heavily on the services of lobbyists was a new experience that required a great deal of energy and money. Money was continually in short supply, and the energies of those who could travel to Washington D.C. were often overstretched. The non-Natives working for AFN did not always fully understand the people they were working for, and sometimes inserted their own ideas into the mix. And not all the different Native groups within AFN agreed all the time or always had the same agenda to promote. Internal dispute sapped energy and diverted attention from the common goal but a lot of it was probably necessary in order for AFN to develop into the effective political organization that Alaska Natives needed.
This unit discusses the challenges and obstacles that Alaska Native leaders encountered in dealing with the legislative process. What do you think was the single largest obstacle or challenge? Support your opinion.
- Barry Jackson
- Congressman Wayne Aspinall Alaska Native Land Claims
- Congressman Lloyd Meeds Alaska Native Land Claims
- Bill Van Ness attorney Alaska Native Land Claims
Video & Audio:
1. Barry Jackson — Land Claims Movement and Congressional passage
2. Barry Jackson — Land Claims Movement and Congressional passage
Please click on a thumbnail to start a slide show.