"Sweeping Reforms Affected in AFN Organizational Structure"

By Thomas Richards, Jr.

Staff Writer

Tundra Times, October 10, 1969, p.2.


One of the most significant actions taken by the Alaska Federation of Natives during their fourth annual convention in Anchorage last weekend brought about sweeping reforms within that organization.

Responding to an appeal by AFN President Emil Notti for "badly needed" reforms, a resolution for the incorporation of AFN and for reapportionment of the board of directors was introduced Friday.

Speaking in favor of the resolution, President Emil Notti stated, "AFN is not really representative of it members on a regional basis. We have some really serious problems with representation."

Alfred Ketzler, President of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, added his support. "We must recognize that changes have to be worked out," he said.

Limited opposition came from some of the smaller native organizations which, under the old structure, had the same vote as did the other organizations having larger membership.

Sam Kito, Jr., president of the Fairbanks Native Association, stated, "If enacted, FNA would lose its vote on the board and only have one vote out of the 35 villages in the Tanana Chiefs Conference."

After lengthy discussion, the resolution was referred to a committee and ultimately to the full board of the AFN which met on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, the board of directors approved the reforms. In keeping with the intent of legislation proposed by the Alaska Federation of Natives and introduced before the Senate by Senator Ted Stevens, the new board will consist of 12 members, representing the 12 major regional native associations.

The AFN will be incorporated by these directors.

The main speaker to the convention was former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who urged the AFN to prepare wisely for the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee's hearings in Alaska next week.

Clark told the native leaders Saturday morning that congressmen find it difficult to understand how native claims are justified.

Clark said they cannot understand how 70,000 Alaska Natives used and occupied nearly 400 million acres in 1800 and how 60,000 natives still use and occupy 80 million acres.

"40 million acres seems so immense to congressmen," he said. Clark described the House hearings as "the opportunity to show the truth."

There are overwhelming reasons why you should be entitled to a half-billion dollars . . . 40 million acres, and a two per cent royalty," he stated.

"Yet unless you show them, they would be reluctant to believe it . . . It takes study; it takes thought, and it takes facts," he added.

"Your effort in the next 12 months will determine the welfare of your people for generations," Clark said.

"We as lawyers are proud to represent you . . . I am not at all proud of our history of dealing with native people," he said.

The former Attorney General indicated that there will be Senate floor action before the end of the year, and added: "In one year from today, the issue shall be determined, and then we will know whether justice has been done."

The reception given Ramsey Clark was enthusiastic, and later Saturday afternoon, was repeated for remarks given by Senator Mike Gravel.

Senator Gravel had praise for native leaders, who, in his words, "resisted serious attempts to undermine the native position."

He complimented AFN for securing "good legal counsel" from the Goldberg firm, but warned that "dangerous things" may yet threaten native efforts.

"I urge you to take the most extreme position," Gravel stated. He said he would back the native position "100 per cent."

Gravel indicated support of full native ownership of lands received in a settlement, as well as full native management of the proceeds from the land settlement.

The Senator said he would urge the continuation of the land freeze until the claims are settled.

Gravel was immediately followed by Congressman Howard W. Pollock who received a polite, if somewhat restrained, reception.

Pollock told the convention that there were items in land legislation which he did not agree with. "There are portions that I think every Alaskan will want reduced," he said.

Pollock said he was in disagreement with those who seek to involve the state in participation in native land claims. Pollock was queried several times regarding his opposition to the two per cent royalty proposal.

"Are you in favor of the two per cent royalty?" asked one delegate.

"It is a difficult situation. We are going to get some opposition on this," Pollock said.

"I think it can be done. Do you?" another asked.

"If it can be done, it is wonderful," the congressman added.

A third question: "Will you be behind us?"

A third answer: "To the maximum extent I can."

The brief interchange caused one native delegate to later remark: "We had ought to name a new Indian dance in honor of the Congressman—the Political Side-Step."

As Senator Ted Stevens took the platform, President Notti remarked, "Two up, and one to go."

After urging the delegates to form positions on national issues, Senator Stevens said that competition between the political parties would result in a favorable land claims settlement.

He indicated that he would fully support the native position. "The problem of the two per cent is not that it is too much; it is that it is too little," Stevens said.

Stevens said he supported "as much land as possible in the settlement," and all of it "in fee title."

In echoing his statement that competitive politics would boost the settlement, Stevens said, "Active competition in both parties achieved statehood. Competition is working for you today such as you've never seen it before."

Further pursuing his position on the claims, Stevens left the delegates somewhat disappointed. Although he favored the full amount of money settlement, the full amount of land, and the revenue sharing proposal, Stevens indicated that it all should come from the federal government.

The AFN position favors the $500 million cash settlement be paid by the federal treasury, yet it would like to select land from both open public lands (federal) as well as lands to which the state does not have final patent.

AFN also would like for the state to assume responsibility through revenue sharing, in the form of the two per cent royalty.

Following Stevens' speech, the delegates resumed consideration of resolutions, which totaled over 50 in number.

One of these empowered the AFN board of directors to approve the contract with the Goldberg firm. The first matter of business during the board meeting Sunday was the contract, which the board approved.

President Emil Notti noted the significance of this resolution: "The convention directed the board to go ahead on the contract with the Goldberg firm. It shows the native population's approval of the initial board action."

Notti also commented on speeches made Saturday by members of the congressional delegation.

"We saw very clearly where our support lies in our overall efforts," Notti stated.

"The board Sunday decided to seek funds immediately to put a man in Washington and to expand our overall efforts on the land claims bill.

"During the next six months, we will have as many people as possible working on the land bill," he added.

"We consider the next nine months to be critical in our efforts.

"The people demonstrated determination to move ahead on the land claims bill with a unified approach," he concluded.

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