Corporations are Not Tribes!

Old article, but it really highlights the divide between the corporate, bureaucratic institutions in our communities and the old tribal structures.

Voices from the Flats – AFN Day 2. Corporations are Not Tribes!

By Elstun Lauesen


The meeting at David Salmon Hall next to the Tanana Chiefs Conference Office building was nothing like the AFN meeting I came from. In this meeting the audience did the talking and the folks on the podium listened. When I walked in, Harold Napoleon was walking through a list of deficiencies inherent in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The date of December 18, 1971 is the demarcation between those who are vested in their corporations and those who are not, creating, in essence a ‘de facto’ termination date for Alaska Natives. He recalled that the prime motive at the beginning of the settlement movement was preserving traditional land use and hunting and fishing rights. Instead, ANCSA became a vehicle for separating Alaska Natives from their lands and imposing new rules and new classes of users on the hunting and fishing. The corporations created under ANCSA were supposed to complement the Tribes and help develop jobs and the economy of the Villages. Instead what has happened, according to Mr. Napoleon, is that the federal government now deals directly with the Corporations, by-passing the Tribes.

About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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5 Responses to Corporations are Not Tribes!

  1. Aandeiyeen says:

    If you hadn’t had a chance to check out the subcommittee hearing on the Sealaska bill, it highlight just how vocal the corporations try to be on behalf of all Natives. The hearing is archived on the subcommittee website:

    at 56:35 into the video, Byron Mallott makes the following assertion: “A for-profit corporation is not really what Sealaska is. We represent tribal people.”

    • ravenwarrior says:

      Thanks, I’ll check that out. Sealaska Heritage Foundation has taken the lead on some reparations of clan property, since clans aren’t recognized by the federal government. Though its weird to me that NAGPRA recognized Sealaska as a tribe. While I’m thankful for the role they played in getting the Teeyhittaan clan hat back from the AK State Museum, its still an odd state of affairs. In fact, one of the arguments the AK State Museum used against us was that Sealaska HI was not a tribe and therefore could not bring a case before the NAGPRA Committee.

      • Aandeiyeen says:

        There was legislation back in 2004 (cited in the resolution mentioned in the Mudflats article) that slipped through where ANCSA corporations are supposed to be consulted by agencies as if they were tribes.

        Here is one:
        “SEC. 161. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget
        shall hereafter consult with Alaska Native corporations on the
        same basis as Indian tribes under Executive Order No. 13175.” (page 450 in the pdf)

        And here’s the amendment(?) that changed that to add on “all federal agencies”

        Click to access app_language_anc1209.pdf

        Given that the State of Alaska doesn’t even recognize tribes, it’s interesting that a state-run museum would suddenly play the “well, they’re not a tribe” angle. Interesting indeed!

  2. Ishmael Hope says:

    Aandeiyeen and Vince, this is a great discussion! As I understand it, there are levels of working with village and regional tribes and then with corporations. Here is a great read by Peter Metcalfe on some of the early history of building tribal organizations through the ANB/ANS:

    Click to access 2011_02_22_Sword_and_the_shield.pdf

    It’s well worth the read.

    Ishmael Hope

    • ravenwarrior says:

      Thanks, Ishmael! I’ll have to pick that book up.

      I am of the opinion that our village tribes can and should have a significant role in our communities; but I think they would be more effective in improving the lives of rural Alaska Natives if they acted more as stewards of common tribal property rather than private property holders. The incentives under the two philosophies of property “ownership” are vastly different.

      My vision of how our villages should operate here:

      An ANCSA Corporation could play a pretty big role in building and maintaining a resilient village. It would take a major shift in philosophy, but it is a shift back to the philosophy that still exists in our tribal and clan memories.

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