Landless Natives/Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act:
(From a Lisa Murkowski press release):
Murkowski introduced this bill in an effort to right the inequity that Native residents in five villages in Southeast — Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Tenakee and Haines — were the only Alaska Natives not to benefit from the operation of both regional and village or urban corporations when the lands claim settlement was approved.
“Nearly 38 years have passed since the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act became law and still the Native peoples of five communities in Southeast Alaska — the five ‘landless communities’' — are still waiting for their fair and just settlement. It is long past time that residents in these communities receive the same benefits that all other villages received. It is a simple matter of fairness,” Murkowski said.
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act awarded $966 million and 44 million acres of land to Alaska Natives and provided for the establishment of Native Corporations to receive and manage such funds and lands. The beneficiaries of the settlement were issued stock in one of 13 regional Alaska Native corporations – 12 based in Alaska. Most beneficiaries also had the option to enroll and receive stock in a village, group or urban corporation.
Murkowski said that for reasons still unclear, the Native peoples of the “landless communities'' were not permitted by ANCSA to form village or urban corporations. The communities were excluded from the benefit even though they did not differ significantly from other communities in Southeast Alaska that were permitted to form village or urban corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
For example, Ketchikan had more Native residents in 1970, the year of a membership census, than Juneau, which was permitted to form the Goldbelt urban corporation. This finding was confirmed in a February 1994 report submitted by the Secretary of the Interior at the direction of Congress. That study was conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska.
Under Murkowski’s bill, Natives in the five towns will be able to form “urban” corporations. The corporations would be offered and could accept the surface estate to 23,040 acres of land – one township as granted to all other village corporations. Sealaska Corporation, the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, would receive title to the subsurface estate of the designated lands.
The urban corporations would each receive a lump sum payment ($650,000) to be used as start-up funds for the newly established corporations. The Secretary of the Interior would determine other appropriate compensation to redress the inequities faced by the unrecognized communities, potentially including access to a federal surplus property ownership account.