Alaska Natives settled land claim disputes with the United States government uniquely, opting for the creation of Alaska Native owned, Regional (and subsequently Village and Group) Corporations (ANCs), rather than reservations. A relatively hasty completion of the land claim settlement was spurred by the discovery of oil in 1968 on the north slope of Alaska. In 1971, the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed, after six different house bills were considered by the United States Congress and a separate committee was formed to reconcile the differing views (Linxwiler,1992) .
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act represented a dramatic departure from every other land settlement the federal government engaged in with tribes.
---Mara Kimmel, Political Science professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage
After ANCSA, Alaska Native people became shareholders of their regional corporation – basing landownership on the corporate model, layering this new relationship onto the traditional and tribal.
---The NANA Regional Corporation
“This legislation created Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), which would become the vehicle for distributing land and monetary benefits to Alaska Natives in lieu of a reservation system. ANSCA permitted the conveyance of about 44 million acres of land to the ANCs [who selected the land], along with cash payments of almost $1 billion in exchange for extinguishing the aboriginal land claims in Alaska. Regional Corporations were required to be formed as profit-making entities, while village, urban, and group corporations could decide whether to be profit or nonprofit entities (United States Government Accountability Office, 2006)."
ANSCA included the transference of the surface and subsurface rights once claimed by the federal government, to these twelve corporations, changing the legal relationship of Alaska Native people to their land (NANA ANC). A thirteenth corporation was created for Alaska Natives who no longer lived in Alaska. “Sharing is an important provision of ANCSA," the Nana Regional Corporation points out on their website, “[it] requires both Regional and Village corporations to share 70 percent of their natural resource revenues. This protects those corporations that do not have significant natural resources. For example, all Native corporations benefit when a mine is developed or oil is discovered or timber is logged on one corporation’s land. Alaska's system starkly contrasts the reservation system in the Lower 48 in which tribes who, due to fortunate location, are able to own and operate successful businesses, such as casinos, are not required to share revenues with tribes who cannot.”
Unlike tribes in the continental United States, Alaskan tribes have no land base over which they can assert sovereign authority.
Kimmel, UAA Political Science professor
Learn more about the Alaska v. Village of Venetie Tribal Government decision and read the opinion.
Read Mara Kimmel's complete paper on Alaska Tribal Governance
Tribes as governments are involved with (1) marine mammal management, and (2) tribal members as individuals are active in subsistence resource management (Kimmel 2009).
The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 vested management authority for marine mammals with the federal government and prohibited all taking of marine mammals with few exceptions. Act of October 21, 1972, 16 U.S.C.A. §§ 1361 et seq. One exception allowed Alaska Natives to continue to harvest marine mammals for subsistence purposes (defined to also include the making and selling of traditional handicrafts made from marine mammals). The law did not direct federal regulation of marine mammals until there was a biological showing that a population was in danger, which left a management vacuum that was soon filled by Alaska Native tribes who organized into a variety of commissions including the
These commissions now work hand in hand with federal and state biologists and regulatory agencies to manage certain marine mammal stocks in Alaska. Although these commissions have been successful at manifesting the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government, the scope of that authority is limited to the species subjected to the agreement (Kimmel 2009).”
“One of the defining features of the right of self-determination for Arctic indigenous peoples is the right to continue cultural practices and subsistence traditions and this is profoundly true for Alaska Natives. Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) defined subsistence uses and users, and provided a means for those users to be involved in managing subsistence resources. Act of December 2 1980, 16 U.S.C.A. §§ 3111 et seq. ANILCA provided both a priority for subsistence uses of natural resources over other types of uses such as commercial or recreational harvesters, and a system of committees and councils to integrate local input into management practices. The state of Alaska established a similar scheme providing for local involvement into resource management, but does not provide a similar preference for subsistence uses. See CASE, supra note 20 at 292-97 (Kimmel 2009).”
Alaska Native Sovereignty
University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center