Local News

Sealaska counters Sheldon Jackson’s Redoubt claims

Sealaska Plaza, the regional Native corporation’s Juneau headquarters. Sealaska selected the Redoubt Falls area under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act more than 35 years ago.

Sealaska says it’s the better party to take ownership of Redoubt Falls.

Sheldon Jackson College trustees announced Monday that they were advancing their claim to 160 acres in the area, including the falls, the west end of Redoubt Lake and part of a nearby bay. The much-used fishing area is about a 15-mile skiff ride south of Sitka.

The trustees’ attorney said he had documented ownership and sale of the property since the Russians left Alaska. He said the most recent transfer, in 1981, put the property in the college’s hands.

Sealaska claimed a smaller part of Redoubt in the mid-1970s as part of its Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land selections. It’s the last of about 95 cultural and historic sites the regional Native corporation requested under the act.

Sealaska Executive Vice President Rick Harris says the trustees’ claims address long-gone buildings, not land.

“Plus, it ignores the historic Tlingit use before Russian occupancy, during Russian occupancy and then even after Russian occupancy,” he says.

Harris says Sealaska can prove Redoubt is a Native cultural and historic site eligible for selection under the settlement act. (Read Sealaska’s statement on the issue.)

He also says the federal Bureau of Land Management, which determines such claims, was close to conveying the land when the trustees filed their claim.

Harris says Sealaska has been negotiating a management and use agreement with Sitka’s municipal and tribal government, as well as the Forest Service.

“The Sitka tribe was very clear in its expectation that this site would be one that all of the community would be able to use for subsistence purposes and that the fisheries enhancement projects that are currently on the site are ongoing,” Harris says.

The tribe, which supports the takeover, would manage the area.

Critics have worried Sealaska might lose Redoubt, as well as other lands, if it failed and went bankrupt.

Harris says Sealaska is financially secure. And residents should worry more about a possible Sheldon Jackson takeover.

“They’re an organization that is, I will say, a defunct institution and it has creditors. We don’t understand what their relationship is. And if Sheldon Jackson actually receives title, I’m not certain how they could guarantee that the property will not be transferred to another entity,” he says.

The college trustees updated their claim with more ownership information earlier this month. It did not include the actual Russian deed of sale, which they say can’t be found.

Sealaska has until early September to file its response.

The corporation has taken no position on the 150 or so acres of the trustees’ claim that is outside Sealaska’s land selection.

Comments

Please read our comment guidelines.

Recent News

Governor declares disaster in Sitka, freeing up relief funds

150818_slides_Waldholz_01
On Friday, Governor Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration for Sitka, in response to seven landslides on August 18th. In a letter to the legislature, Walker said he would cap relief at $1 million for the moment, but that the incident is ongoing and total recovery costs are unknown. According to Gorman, the cost of emergency response alone is estimated to be over half a million dollars. Individual assistance and family grants are also available, at a cap of $16,450 per household. more

Source of large oil spill in ANB Harbor identified

IMG_2990
The Coast Guard has determined the source of a large diesel spill that spread from Sitka Sound into ANB harbor yesterday morning (08-31-15). The source was a commercial vessel south of ANB Harbor, Since the spill wasn’t reported for several hours, the size could have been anywhere from 50 gallons to 300 gallons. That made clean-up difficult. more