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 MRS. LAURA BERGT (read written statement)
My name is Laura Bergt and I am from Fairbanks, Alaska. I was born in Candle, Alaska, which is between Nome and Kotzebue.
I have lived in practically all regions in Alaska, Nome, Kotzebue, Barrow, Sitka, Anchorage, and now Fairbanks. With my father being a bush pilot and my husband as a vice president of Interior Airways, I have traveled extensively throughout the State. Therefore, I have become very familiar with the State of Alaska, its people, and the socioeconomic problems of the rural and urban areas.
I am a member of the executive committee of the State remote housing committee, the State tourism advisory board, the State rural affairs commission, the 1970 White House Conference Commission, and was a member of Hope Center (Fairbanks Rehabilitation, Inc.). Its main purpose is to provide prevocational courses for the mentally and physically handicapped people and is the only center of its kind in Alaska.
I am also a board member of the Tundra Times newspaper and was a member of the Anchorage Press Club.
Past activities include being an officer of the Arctic Association for Retarded Children which administers a special educational school in Fairbanks, an officer of the Cook Inlet Native Association in Anchorage, chairman of World Eskimo Olympics, an all-Native sports even which involves all of Alaska and Canada, Fairbanks Press Club, a member of the executive committee of the State Press Club, former national committeewoman for the Young Republicans and doing extensive traveling in promoting travel and trade for the State of Alaska.
You have read and heard voluminous reports at prior hearings concerning health, welfare, housing, extreme poverty, and educational standards of the Alaskan Native. These reports have established the clear case of Native needs. Your recent trips to those rural areas, I am sure, confirmed all of these reports, and through a prompt and generous settlement of the Native land claims, these conditions will be improved.
I know that you can't help but be impressed with the Native leadership today, with the competence of today's Alaskan Native. This generation of Natives is prepared to enter and compete with society in every respect, to compete with others in the business, professional, and political worlds. This is being done now, today.
This is made evident in that many of us are called upon to head Federal and State projects which involve Natives and the rural areas so that these projects will be successfully executed. No one understands better than we what our problems are and what should be done.
We have business acumen and confidence to manage our own affairs and businesses. We have several projects involving thousands and thousands of dollars, for instance, their on-the-job training program. I think that is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000, and this involves training Natives and non-Natives alike throughout the State of Alaska. I am proud to say that they are doing a very, very good job, I was told by the Secretary. This is evidence, again, that some of Alaska's most outstanding people are Natives, outstanding in their professional and business fields and endeavors. They are a strong contributory factor in Alaska's economy.
We have very proficient people in all phases of business, officers of airlines, pilots, legislators, attorneys, leaders in the medial profession, editors and reporters, teachers, leaders in the educational field, and many more.
Look at what has been done with the Native land claims, look at how far
we have come. It is because of our Native leadership along with the excellent
I think that we are very, very competent and qualified, if not more than anyone else, to manage and develop our moneys and resources from the Native Land Claim settlements. I think that we can invest our money, as was pointed out today, in education, in several ways, for instance, by building airports and hotels and what-have-you in the rural areas, which would benefit our people.
I believe it's extremely necessary for the regional corporation to control and manage our settlement funds. It's only reasonable that we should control and develop our resources from the settlement - and the most important one of all, the Alaskan Native. Who could be better qualified than we?
Our Native leadership is just as qualified and competent, if not more, than anyone else - in fact, it seems ludicrous to have anyone else other than ourselves to manage and develop our monies and resources. It's our investment.
It would be an insult to our integrity if a governmental agency, five thousand (5,000) miles away, were to manage our affairs. This has gone on too long already with unsatisfactory results. If it were to be that others than our Native leaders would be in this managerial position, involving us, they would - in all probability - turn to us for answers and advice to their questions.
This was and is our land - to even compromise as much as we've had to and then to think of the possibility of someone, or some group, being slapped on to us for managing our affairs is not true justice.
I strongly urge you to weigh these factors and work towards vesting these powers to the regional corporation concept. This show of respect and confidence in the Alaskan Native will be truly appreciated besides showing wise judgement, understanding and faith in the Alaskan Native on your part. I'm confident that you will be extremely pleased with the capability, responsibility, and intelligence of the Alaskan Native in managing his own affairs.
Thank you for coming to Alaska - and come back soon.
Question: On page 3 of your statement, you say that it would be an insult to your integrity if a Government agency 5,000 miles away were to manage your affairs. I couldn't agree with you more, but don't you believe that it would be beneficial if a corporation were composed not only of Natives but also non-Natives cooperating and working with the rest of the State, because, after all, you are all Alaskans.
That is true, that is true. But I think we should control our affairs. We would certainly need and appreciate the advice of others, whether they are Native or non-Native.
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.