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Introduction Of The Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization Act

Rep. Don Young

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Madam Speaker, today I, along with my distinguished colleagues, Mr. Abercrombie, Mr. Faleomavaega, Mr. Boren and Mr. Shuler introduce the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization Act. This legislation will redress the inequitable treatment of the Native Regional Corporation for Southeast Alaska, Sealaska Corporation, by allowing it to select its remaining land entitlement under Section 14 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, ANCSA, from designated Federal land in Southeast Alaska.

In 1971, Congress enacted ANCSA to recognize and settle the aboriginal claims of Alaska Natives. ANCSA allocated 44 million acres and nearly $1 billion to Alaska's Native people, to be managed by the 12 Regional Corporations, including Sealaska, and more than 200 Village Corporations. While Sealaska is one of the Regional Corporations with the largest number of Native shareholders, with 21 percent of all original Native shareholders, Sealaska received the smallest Regional Corporation land settlement, which was less than 1 percent of the total of all ANCSA lands. Now, nearly four decades since ANCSA's passage, Sealaska is still without their full land entitlement.

It remains critical that Sealaska complete its remaining land entitlement under ANCSA to continue to meet the economic, social and cultural needs of its Native shareholders, and of the Native community throughout Alaska.

The Bureau of Land Management projects that Sealaska is entitled to receive between 355,000 and 375,000 acres pursuant to ANCSA. To date, over 35 years after ANCSA's enactment, Sealaska has secured conveyance of 290,000 acres. Accordingly, there are up to 85,000 acres remaining to be conveyed. However, ANCSA limits Sealaska land selections to withdrawal areas surrounding certain Native villages in Southeast Alaska. The problem is that there are no lands remaining in these withdrawal areas that meet Sealaska's traditional, cultural, historic, or socioeconomic needs, and certain portions of those lands should more appropriately remain in public ownership.

The selection limitations preclude Sealaska from using any of its remaining ANCSA land settlement to select places of sacred, cultural, traditional, and historic significance located outside the withdrawal areas that are critical to facilitate the perpetuation and preservation of Alaska Native culture and history. Moreover, selection from the withdrawal areas would not allow Sealaska to meet the purposes of ANCSA, which is to create continued economic opportunities for the Native people of Southeast Alaska. Further, more than 40 percent of the original withdrawal areas are salt water and, therefore, not available for selection.

Despite the small land base in comparison to all other Regional Corporations, Sealaska has provided significant economic benefits to not only Sealaska Native shareholders, but also to the other Native Corporations throughout Alaska. Pursuant to a revenue sharing provision in ANCSA, Sealaska distributes considerable revenues derived from its timber development--more than $315 million between 1971 and 2007--to the other Native Corporations. Unless it is allowed to select land outside of the designated withdrawal areas, Sealaska will not be able to select land that would allow it to maintain its existing resource development and management operations, or provide continued economic opportunities for the Native people of Southeast Alaska and economic benefits to the broader Alaska Native community through the revenue sharing requirements under ANCSA.

The legislation presents a solution that would allow Sealaska to complete the conveyance of its land entitlement and enable the Federal Government to complete its statutory obligation to the Natives of Southeast Alaska, as promised under ANCSA. I thank my colleagues and urge your support for this important legislation for the Native people of Southeast Alaska.