Amend Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act?

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is almost 40 years old now but the debate continues.

Some tribal leaders are meeting in Anchorage this week to revisit ANCSA. The Act cleared the way for construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

Under ANCSA, Native land claims were resolved or settled to allow the unimpeded building of the pipeline. In exchange, Native corporations, which were created by Congress but to be governed by state law, received title to 44 million acres of land and about $1 billion.

Some tribal leaders say ANCSA was fundamentally flawed and fails to protect subsistence. “Our lands need to be turned back to the tribal government jurisdiction and that’s 45 million acres of that land needs to go back to the jurisdiction of the real owners and that’s the tribes,” said Mike Williams of Tribes for Tribes.

This week’s Anchorage gathering was organized outside of the major Native organizations.

Tribal leaders say they fear Native corporations would try to control the discussion, but other Native leaders worry that the debate could be divisive.

Tribal leaders that organized this week’s summit hope the Obama administration will consider their proposals to fix ANCSA.

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