Frank Hopper’s article on opposition to the Alaska Native Lands Bill is a must read. Cited is public testimony given by Keiheenouk’, John Martin, Sr. of Hoonah, AK. The article is an excellent entry into the story of Alaska Natives’ long struggle with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and its far reaching consequences. Below is an excerpt.
For much of the year the jet stream brings one rain system after another to Southeast Alaska, feeding the largest temperate rainforest in the world, the Tongass, ancestral home of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Nations. Sitka Spruce trees shoot up 300 feet like skyscrapers above a diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life. For thousands of years the Native people lived in harmony with the forest, honoring and respecting it.
Then one day the Natives began mowing it down. During the 1980s the Natives clear-cut thousands of acres of old-growth rainforest in the Tongass, leaving behind only a hideous desert of stumps.
This was the result of an experiment in social engineering called the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act or ANCSA. Now Alaska Natives in five communities who were left out of the original 1971 settlement are petitioning Congress to include them. And at least one Tlingit elder is speaking out against it.
“I oppose S.872 as it is written. Our true Łingit people want culture and language. We oppose corporations. They are profit-making corporations and have nothing to do with traditional cultural values.”