I find it disturbing that Sealaska Corporation, my own regional ANCSA Corporation, is pushing for recognition as a tribe while our clans, the very building block of Tlingit life, remain embattled on all fronts. Sealaska Heritage has pursued the return of my clan’s at.oow, so for that I remain thankful. Still, recognizing a corporation as a tribe is further colonization of our traditional way of life and one very large step away from who we are as Tlingit. Additionally, we might recognize their Haa Aani (PDF LINK) for what it is: a corporate land grab at the expense of our landless communities and our clans, which no longer hold their sovereign territory and lands after centuries upon centuries of stewardship. Tribal “Governments” are bad enough, now we have deal with corporations as “tribes?”
I have indeed advocated for our ANCSA Village corporations to behave more like tribes or clan controlled entities. But the root of that proposition is to treat the land in our stewardship more like it were clan controlled than corporate controlled, perhaps until it could be returned directly to our clans. This is easier done at the village level than the regional level.
Kookesh Pushes for Recognition of Alaska Native Corporation
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
There’s a power struggle going on between Alaska Native tribes and corporations, and that battle was taken to Washington, DC last week. The board chairman of the Sealaska Native Corporation in Southeast, Albert Kookesh, was in Washington with the Alaska Federation of Natives, for whom he serves as co-chair. He was attending an event designed to bring unity to the Alaska Native and Indian American message, but Kookesh used some of his time in a White House meeting to advocate for corporations.
He and other representatives of the Alaska Federation of Natives met with Kim Teehee, President Obama’s senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs. And Kookesh says he told her corporations need more recognition in Alaska.
Kookesh says corporations want to join groups like the National Congress of American Indians, which called for last week’s indigenous gathering in Washington. He at first said Alaskans can’t join NCAI, but then clarified that Alaska’s tribes can – but not its corporations.
Those are troublesome words for some tribal leaders in Alaska, who see the mission and responsibility of the corporations as very different from that of tribes. Kookesh’s comments upset David Harrison, executive director for the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council. He says calling corporations “like Lower 48 tribes” hurts the actual Alaskan tribes.
Harrison says there’s a fundamental need for true tribes that’s different from the corporation’s mission of making money. He’s fighting Kookesh’s statements.
Harrison says he’s trying to get as many tribal representatives as possible at this week’s Alaska Federation of Natives gathering in Anchorage to speak up about the role of tribes, and later at this month’s National Congress of American Indians gathering in Portland.