Representatives of an effort to seek land for Alaskan natives in five communities in Southeast Alaska spoke briefly with the Petersburg Borough Assembly this month and hope to have support from the municipality.
The group is called Alaska Natives Without Land and represents the natives of Alaska who have not been granted land and village corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, or ANCSA. This legislation gave 44 million acres of land and $ 963 million to the newly formed Alaskan Native corporations to extinguish land claims in the rest of the state, and paved the way for the construction of the trans- Alaska. Under this law, Alaskan natives in the five communities were not allowed to form corporations or grant land.
Nicole Hallingstad, granddaughter of Petersburg civil rights leader Amy Hallingstad, told the Petersburg district assembly this month the group is seeking support to change that.
“This is the start of a very important conversation with the communities that have stakeholders in the municipality who will be interested in what is happening with these lands,” said Hallingstad. “So we look forward to having this conversation with interested parties. We are excited about the possibility that these five communities, Petersburg, Haines, Tenakee Springs, Wrangell and Ketchikan, will receive the 23,040 township acres that were promised to them under ANSCA, but never delivered. .
Hallingstad said the group hoped to return to Petersburg for a more formal presentation. Legislation authorizing land selections has yet to be presented to Congress.
As proposed, the plots would originate from the Tongass National Forest and be transferred to new indigenous urban societies. Supporters of the effort have published maps of the specific lands they seek, chosen with the help of indigenous people in each community. In the Petersburg area, these choices are in Thomas Bay and near Point Aggasiz. Other plots can be found near Portage Bay on Kupreanof Island and other locations on this island, as well as several selections in central Mitkof Island.
The group was also represented by Cecilia Lopez Tavoliero, who grew up in Petersburg and still owns land here. She explained to the assembly that a new company would not focus on logging its land as has happened in the past.
“It’s another day, it’s another age,” said Lopez Tavoliero. “When we have our companies, we’re not going to go out there and record everything like a lot of people think we’re going to do. Our people are more educated. We are looking at things like carbon credits. We are looking for ecotourism. We are looking for other areas to do business.
Supporters also claim that new Alaskan Native societies would strengthen the economies of the five communities. The regional company Sealaska has pledged this year to contribute half a million dollars to this effort.
The Alaska Congressional delegation made numerous attempts at legislation to amend the landmark 1971 law, but these were not passed. Opponents of these efforts fought against the cession of public land to private companies.