There are 3 pillars of power in Tlingit Country that can be harnessed to help establish an independent Tlingit Nation made up of independent clans and Kwaans:
- Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Village Corporations
- Municipal Governments
- Tribe/Clan entities (Chilkat Kwaan, Kiksadi, etc.)
In this post I will be exploring how we can reorient ANCSA Village Corporations along the spirit of clan based property as a step toward an independent Tlingit Nation. The key idea here is to reorient our Tlingit economy so that resources are managed to serve tribal members. In following posts I will explain how we can use our municipal governments in majority Tlingit communities to protect interests of the Tlingit Nation (found here) and then explain how our clan/tribal system can be used for dispute mediation, justice, and defense.
ANCSA Village Corporations represent a drastic reorganization of clan and tribe based resource management. Common property of the tribe and clan was reorganized as private property of the corporations. For more on this see here and here. While many Village Corporations have retained some semblance of the philosophy of resource preservation for future generations, many have moved toward resource extraction and exportation. The result of this has been that many Tlingits in rural southeast Alaska have been set adrift on economic life rafts; surrounded by resources but prohibited from utilizing them and locked out of the American economy. When there are trees to harvest, sometimes there are jobs. For the other 40 years while our forests regrow, there’s very little. This leaves Tlingits at obscene poverty levels. On top of this, rural SE Alaskans pay upwards of $.54 per kilowatt hour for electricity. This is about 5 times the national average per kilowatt hour in communities that exhibit poverty rates at 2, 3 and sometimes even 4 times the national average. The current economic arrangement under ANCSA clearly has not served the Tlingit well.
While the long term solution may be to re-assert our traditional clan and kwaan territorial sovereignty over fishing grounds and wilderness, the short term solution is to reorient the nature of our village corporations toward building resilient communities. John Robb, of Global Guerrillas describes a resilient community as follows:
This conceptual model creates a set of new services that allow the smallest viable subset of social systems, the community (however you define it), to enjoy the fruits of globalization without being completely vulnerable to its excesses. These services are configured to provide the ability to survive an extended disconnection from the global grid in the following areas (an incomplete list):
- Security (both active and passive).
ANCSA Village Corporations can and should provide energy, communication and transportation services for our communities. The idea is to use our strategic resources and economic arrangement to provide for the needs of our people, rather than to trade on the national or international level, which all to often leaves out the majority of ANCSA Corporation shareholders. This could mean growing fuel forests instead of timber forests. It would certainly mean the construction of energy efficient housing to alleviate the high energy costs that we pay in our Tlingit communities. Other ideas are mushroom cultivation in our forests and forestry management practices that attract wild game close to our villages. In doing this we would go back to the spirit of the old clan based property system: the resources exist to support the needs of clan and tribal members.
Here’s how our Village Corporations can do this:
- Move our Village Corporations from resource extraction (clear cutting) to resource management (maintaining a food and fuel forest for use by tribal members to meet food and energy needs.)
- Invest in energy infrastructure such as wood furnaces for centralized heating and biomass electricity generation
- Build energy efficient villages. There is already a trend toward this, a village corporation could design an entire village to cut down on energy usage for electricity, heating and transportation. A traditional village comes to mind.
In making this move we would take a step toward economic independence. Our Tlingit economy is currently leaving tribal members literally in the cold and dark. Let’s reorient our economy to serve tribal members.