The following are public statements provided at hearings held in Fairbanks and Anchorage the 17th and 18th of October 1969 prior to the passage of ANCSA. They provide the reader with some of the issues and concerns discussed prior to the passage of ANCSA.
STATEMENT OF JEROME TRIGG, SR., NOME, ALASKA (written)
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members of the Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Alaska native, I should like to welcome you to Alaska, and to thank you for this opportunity to enter testimony concerning issues vital to survival of our people, "the Alaska Natives." I am Jerome Trigg, Sr., President of the Arctic Native Brotherhood. Our organizationís office is in Nome, Alaska, which is located on the Bering Sea Coast of Seward Peninsula. My people are called in English the Kowaruk Nation of Eskimo.
It is proper and fitting that a brief history of our past as it relates to the issues before us today be included in this testimony. We have recorded the history in the memory of our people, and what we know to be true has been proven by the research of scientists.
Our people in the beginning lived in caves when Alaska was tropical. Later after a disaster of three days and nights of eclipse of the sun we started having seasons. We have used our land wisely since time before the coming of the white man. We of the Seward Peninsula were an organized nation, proud and unconquered. We didnít waste anything for we needed everything for survival. Both from the land and the sea, we had our hunting and fishing areas.
One could not infringe on others unless permission was given. Once yearly there were meetings of chiefs from all the villages to map out agreements. In time of trouble, all villages assisted those who were being attacked. We drove the warlike Siberian Natives back, though there were others that were friendly that traded with us.
We didnít know of the Russians, much less that they were in our part of the world. Nor did we know about the United States. We were strong and proud, and today we still feel that we own the Seward Peninsula.
We have traded the products of the sea: seal oil, seal skins, dried meat, dried fish, rawhide ropes, and many other items to the inland Natives for caribou hides, squirrel skins, copper, jade slate and other items. We crisscross the peninsula in search of game and fish and to trade with each other. Due to the short season and long winter, it takes a vast area of land to produce the game and fish the Native needs.
Before the white man, the Natives lived in sod huts, partially underground and warm. Today the Eskimo lives in cardboard shacks in the worst poverty in the nation.
I have briefly described a nation of people who live wisely and carefully. We are peaceful, hard-working, tax-paying people, able to make what we have go a long way. Our deep loyalty to the United States is well known. The graves of our men killed in the arctic on patrols of World War II and other graves from later wars in other parts of the world speak for us.
We have been isolated and forgotten because we are a quiet people who must work constantly to stay alive. Some of our people have been left behind the times, as things changed and the riches of our lands were needed by this nation and other countries of the world.
We did not invent the wheel, but the wheel does not work on tundra and snow. We developed sleds instead, and the skin boats. We have learned to adopt to new things if they are useful: outboard motor, snow machine and other items.
I would like to give a few reasons why we desire and need a full and just settlement. First, I would like to point out that we are permanent residents. Even after our land was exploited we remained. We love our land. We have united with the Alaska Federation of Natives. We are proud to be part of that organization.
We are in need of housing with utilities. We have Eskimo kids that never have baths. We have much skin disease and ear problems. Many related health problems due to poor housing and water problems.
We have one of the lowest death ages of any group in the nation.
We cannot borrow from banks to build houses, for you must have an adequate income to pay a loan back. Our children are going to school in distant places. We want them home. We would like to improve our villages to meet modern living conditions with running water. We would like to send our children to institutions of higher learning of our choice. We would like job training for the workers of our area.
We do not want to always live off the taxes that other people pay. We want to earn our own way and pay taxes to support public services we all need, and to have the same freedom to make the choices in our lives that other people do.
The single greatest cause of our present situation, as second-class citizens, is too much dependence on welfare and decision-making by government agencies.
The gold rush, even for all the gold taken from Native lands, left the Native worse off. Will the oil rush trample us too, and destroy the game and resources of the wide areas of land we still must depend on for food and clothing? The Native, too, desires to benefit from development of the resources of the land but we wish, for once, to guide this development so that our children will never have to suffer the hardships that absentee exploitation brought to my generation and older generations.
We are prepared to take on the job of managing a large sum of money and to invest that money in our people, the future generations of our people, and in the good of our state and our nation.
If the settlement is too small we will only be able to attack the symptoms of our problems. This is all that tax money spent so far has been able to do. There must be large settlements in the beginning to establish the system and the means of accomplishing all that must be done. There must be a regular amount of money which can be expected and planned for.
We think that the Federationís proposal for 40 million acres and $500 million with a two percent overriding royalty is a reasonable and just solution to our land claims. This combination of ownership in land and settlement money will allow the Native people to promote and guide development of the land. This proposal will allow us to meet the demands of the future.
We believe that our Eskimo lands were illegally sold without our knowledge or consent by a country which had not conquered or lived on those lands. We also believe that our lands were sold by Russia to the United State when neither country had true knowledge of their use, occupation or ownership. We believe we are justly entitled to payments for non-renewable resources which were removed without benefit to our people and for the lands which are now occupied by the descendants of others.
We have here in Alaska Native bank officers, commercial airline pilots, commercial boat and barge operators, airline managers, and other executives, air station managers, military officers, and schoolteachers. We have members of our people in other states who occupy a wide range of occupation. We have some Native corporations.
The money received in the final settlement will provide the capital to enable us to obtain education, advice, and technical assistance for ourselves and our children. It will provide money for building safe, sanitary and adequate housing for our people. It will provide the foundation and support for private ownership of property and business. It will equip us to compete for jobs and to obtain funds for major construction in our communities, and give us the freedom to make our own choices and mistakes and to profit from them.
We are proud of our citizenship but not the limits that are placed upon it. We are proud of our willingness and ability to serve in our nationís defense. We now wish to contribute to its economy by becoming self-sufficient and independent people. We expect to use the money to which we are justly entitled to prepare our coming generation to take advantage of the opportunities and the choices which this nation can offer to them. We want our children and our childrenís children to be proud of their past and their heritage as American Eskimos, American Aleuts or American Alaskan Indians.
Source: Alaska Native Land Claims Part II, "Hearings before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-first Congress First Session on H.R. 13142, H.R. 10193, and H.R. 14212, Bills to Provide for the Settlement of Certain Land Claims of Alaska Natives, and for Other Purposes. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970.