Sealaska Response to Sheldon Jackson College Redoubt Bay “Color of Title” Claim
On June 20, 2012, BLM issued an order in Sheldon Jackson College’s (“SJ”) Color of Title Claim setting deadlines for SJ to submit its proof of claim to ownership of the Native historical site at Redoubt Bay. SJ is making a color of title claim for ownership of the same property at Redoubt Bay for which Sealaska filed a land conveyance application in 1976 under section 14(h)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). BLM advised SJ in 1990 that the Redoubt Bay land had not been conveyed to the college; nonetheless, 22 years later SJ filed a request to reopen the matter and 37 years after Sealaska initially filed for conveyance of the site as a historical property allowed under Section 14(h)(1) of ANCSA. Sealaska has until September 5, 2012, to respond to the color of title claims submitted by SJ.
The issue from Sealaska’s perspective is that Redoubt Bay is unquestionably a Native historic and current cultural property for the Native people who now reside in Sitka. Sheldon Jackson, which to the best of our knowledge is a defunct institution with possible creditor claims on its assets, asserts that its ownership flows from an old Russian certificate. However, Sealaska’s research shows that, at best, the Russians conveyed only an interest in certain buildings on the property that were long ago abandoned and ultimately destroyed. Neither SJ nor any of its alleged predecessors in title have done anything on this land for over 100 years.
Sealaska maintains its request for conveyance is proper, that the site has been proven to be a Native site and that our application to the site is valid. Sealaska is not disputing SJ’s right to make their claim through the BLM process. Equally Sealaska believes that its right to the site through ANCSA Section 14(h)(1) is irrefutable and will fully defend its right to receive title to the property.
Sealaska is a responsible party and has been collaborating with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the local government and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that the current uses at Redoubt Bay are recognized and will be allowed to continue. We believe these uses are in conformity with the historical use of the property. Sealaska’s, Sitka Tribe’s and the community’s goals for management of the site are in alignment. The parties are collaborating to ensure that the current uses are perpetuated using legal instruments such as easements to guarantee that the use right continues.
Sitka Sealaska shareholders urged us to continue fighting for ANCSA land including the Redoubt area. This was a strong message at a shareholder meeting in 2011. An underlying tone conveyed at that same meeting was a sense that there are some in the community that refuse to join in, what is truly a collaborative effort to manage the site in a way that benefits all Sitka residents.
Sealaska tirelessly spends its time and resources to address false allegations about our land and cultural site management that are intended to stir up turmoil within the community. Sealaska continues to work for the benefit of Southeast Alaska and seeks collaboration and cooperation in this effort.