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 RAY CHRISTIANSEN, STATE SENATOR FOR DISTRICT K (written)
My name is Ray Christiansen, State Senator for District K, which is located on the Lower Yukon and Lower Kuskokwim.
First of all, I want to thank you for coming to Alaska and giving us a chance to testify before your committee. I know you have a very busy schedule and a big responsibility in running the U.S. Government and I think we are very fortunate to have you come and listen to us as we testify concerning Native land claims. I wish I could have flown you out to some of the villages when you were in Bethel. In fact, I had one of my airplanes standing by so I could fly you out and you could see first hand what I will be talking about in my testimony.
I would like to give you a little of my background before I start. I have been living in Alaska all my life (forty-seven years). Of these 47 years, I have spent 22 of them flying. I worked for Northern Consolidated Airlines for ten years as a pilot and now I have my own air service. Before I started flying, I trapped in the winter and hunted in the spring and also fished commercially in Bristol Bay during the summers. After Alaska became a state, I was elected to the State House of Representatives for the second legislative session. Since that time, I have served continuously, first in the House for six years, then in the Senate for three years.
We are asking for our land because we feel this land is our land. It has been handed down to us from our forefathers long before the white man ever came to Alaska, and long before the Russians claimed it. The Russians had no right to sell our land without our consent, because they didn't own it. They never bought it from our forefathers. Neither did they fight for it. They did have some skirmishes in the Southwestern, but never in the interior, western, northern, or northwestern part of Alaska.
I hope the committee, in their wise decision, gives us more land than the 40,000,000 acres quoted. I will try to explain why.
In the bill we are asking for 40,000,000 acres. This is the way we arrived at the 40,000,000-acre figure. Interior Secretary Udall came to Alaska and said that unless the State of Alaska and the Native people could get together; it would be very hard to pass a bill in congress. Governor Hickel then appointed a Native Land Claims Task Force and appointed me as one of the members. The Native Land Claims Task Force then met in Juneau for a period of 10 days and drafted a Native Land Claims bill. While we were discussing the bill, we Natives stated that we owned all of our land and wanted all of it. Robert Vaugan, who was Secretary Udall's representative, said they would recommend 20,000,000 acres, and the State of Alaska would only recommend 25,000,000, and the Native representation recommended all of Alaska. While negotiating, and because we compromised, the 40,000,000 acre figure was arrived at. But, I would like to try and show you why we need more land.
The Native people have been using this land for their living and depend on it just as the white man depends on the mighty dollar to live on. The use and occupancy of the land in Alaska by the Natives, I believe, is the greatest in the world. Whole villages move from their winter dwellings into the fish camps as far as 130 miles during the summer to put up fish for their families for their winter use. In the fall, some families move inland as far as 100 miles to do their fur trapping. In the spring, men go out on the ice floes 20 to 30 miles to catch seal and in some areas, such as the Lower Yukon and Scammon Bay, have to travel farther.
When I was trapping at Kwigillingok, which is 90 miles below Bethel, I
used to see people from Bethel in my trapping area, and other trappers saw people
Cross, which is about 200 miles from Kwigillingok. In the winter, when we ran out of salmon for our dogs, we went by dogteam to Chifornak from Kwigillingok to get needlefish for our teams, and thatís at least 60 miles from Kwigillingok.
We should be reimbursed for the land that the United States Government has taken away from us. The government has taken the best land and made reserves and refuges out of them. For instance, McKinley Park is the best area for hunting moose, sheep, bear, and many other game. The Katmai Park has the best fishing places in Alaska, and probably the world. Clarence Rhodes Refuge has the best fowl hunting and has probably the most ducks and geese per acre. There are many other parks and refuges in Alaska that the government has taken without the consent of the Natives.
I imagine there are some of you who are wondering how people who have no education or who have been poor all their lives can handle such a large amount of money. I donít blame you for wondering, because we have always testified to you how uneducated we are, and I would like to try to show you even if we use few examples. I will start with the village of Kipnuk. There are three stores, and each one is owned by a native. I would say that each store handled at least $50,000.00 a year. One of the storeowners has never gone to school and the other two went as far as second grade in a BIA school. Take the village of Nunapitchuk. There are two stores there. One of them Is operated by Herman Neck, who handles about $60,000.00 a year and the other one is operated by Nick O. Nick, who handles $100,000.00 a year. Nick O. Nick tells me he never went to school at all and Herman, to my knowledge, didnít go past second grade. As a state senator from District K, I represent 34 villages and each village has from one to three stores run by Native personnel. The people I am talking about now are the older people and those of my age that have had no formal education. But our children are farther ahead than we are, education-wise, as they have had the opportunity to go to school and have taken advantage of it. Just give us the money and we will put it to work. It takes money to make money. If we canít handle it ourselves, we will find someone who can. There are many business opportunities that you can go ahead with if you have the money, and now is the time to start. Alaska is a young and growing state, and we would like to be able to invest our money and grow with it.
I believe the 2% royalty is a very important matter, and it should be left in the bill. Just in case we have some unfortunate people or villages that need help, the money will be used to help them. It will be divided to help the areas that need the money.
First of all, I want to thank you all for coming up and giving us a chance to talk about our bill. I know that you have a very busy schedule in Washington and I appreciate you people coming up to listen to us. When you were in Bethel, we had the airplane waiting for you out there to take you up to some of the villages so that you could see firsthand some of the things I will talk about in my testimony, which I will read.
I remember when we were there, we talked about the 40 million acres and I tried telling you then how this 40 million, how we arrived at this 40 million. I would like to go back to it and explain to you, there were several of them, I think, and Congressman Edmondson asked me specifically in Bethel that he would like to find out how we arrived a this 40 million.
Several yearsí back when Secretary Udall came up, he told us that it would be very difficult to pass a bill to Congress if the State of Alaska and the Natives themselves were bickering. So the Governor started a task force, of which I happened to be one of the members. We went down to Juneau and were there for 10 days writing the bill. When we came to Alaska, we Natives said we wanted all of the land. At that time, the Secretary himself wasnít up there, but he had a representative up there whose name was Vaugan. The Secretaryís representative said that he could recommend. Now, I said in Bethel that he said that he would give us. No he didnít. He said that he could recommend 20 million acres and the State of Alaska said they could recommend 25 million acres. So we compromised. We came down a little bit and they came up a little bit. The Governor said that he could support 40 million acres and this is how we arrived at 40 million acres. I will tell you why.
As far as the use and occupancy goes on the land, people, I am talking about my area because I donít know too much about the southern part or the Aleutians or the northern part, but I do know when I was a young fellow I used to go out trapping, I was living in Kwigillingok which is about 90 miles below Bethel. We would go back about 50 miles below Bethel, and we used to see people from Bethel trapping over there where I was trapping, and other trappers who were with me claim they saw some people from Holy Cross which is 200 miles from there. We used the whole area there.
The point that I am trying to get across here is this, this is why we claim the whole land, we wanted it that way, so if you could, we could appreciate it if you would put more than 40 million acres in the bill.
If there are any questions Ė
Question: Senator, I wonder if you would be kind enough, for the record, to express yourself again to the full committee as you did to the chairman of the full committee and myself the other afternoon when we were in Bethel in regard to if this grant is made how you think it should be handled and what it should be spent for.
The 500 million we could use for many things. This is a young State and there are a lot of business opportunities. For instance, here in Alaska, sure, we have hospitals, we have pretty good hospitals here in Anchorage, but in order to find out how really sick you are you have to go to Seattle, you have to go to Rochester. If we had the money, we could start a hospital up here, hire good doctors, first-class doctors, the same kind of doctors they have at the Virginia Mason in Seattle.
There is only one thing. It is the money that comes from this. We can put it in the bank. Nowadays, when you go to a bank it is 10-percent interest. We could use that money, put it in the bank and some of our Native people could borrow that money at a lower interest rate. That way a Native person could start up a business. This interest rate kind of kills you sometimes. About the time you think you are going to buy an extra airplane or a truck, well, the interest rate has taken it all away. If we had the money and put it in the bank and was drawing interest from the bank, people themselves could be allowed to spend it.
Is that what you wanted?
Question: Yes. I wonder if you would mind going a little bit further with your explanation in regard to borrowing the money and how it would be paid back.
We would borrow it just like we do money from the bank. We would pay it back with an interest rate, that interest rate would be piling up so that more people could borrow more money.
Question: I think the witness touched on a point on page 2 of his statement which he didnít get into, although he did abbreviate his statement, on the tremendous use of lands that are among the best hunting areas and fishing areas of the entire State, for refuges and parks, and I just wonder if the gentleman has any recommendations as to what might be done with regard to the utilization of those areas to help meet this hunting and fishing requirement of the people of Alaska.
Mr. Chairman, here I was talking about getting birds for places like McKinley Park, Katmai, these are the areas that have good hunting. McKinley Park has all kinds of bear, sheep, and moose, and we canít touch them. Katmai is a very good fishing area and the only ones that are going in there and sport fishing are the millionaires. I worked for Consolidated for 10 years and I used to work out of their Yakima area and I know how these people came in there, and the only ones that are going in there are the people who can afford it. Sure, we can go in there and do the same thing, maybe a few guys have gone in there, but we donít do it, the sportsmen do it.
Question: Is this because you have to go by air to get into them?
Thatís right, yes.
Question: Were you in favor of statehood for Alaska?
Yes, I did, I am glad we are a State.
Question: As a State do you feel there is any State responsibility at all in regard to this bill that is before us?
You mean the State should have something to do with the bill?
Question: Do you feel as a representative of the State and representative of your people that this should be an entirely Federal proposition or is this a proposition to be handled jointly by the State and the Federal Government?
I think it should be handled by both. I think the Federal Government has a responsibility and I think the State has a responsibility.
Question: On page 2 of your statement, you talked about it briefly, that you used to go 90 miles below Bethel and in some instances 200 miles, and then in the wintertime 60 miles away to get needle fish for the dogteams and that sort of thing. Could that still be done today, if you were still living under the same conditions?
Yes, it is still done there. Of course, it is not done like they used to because the snow machine has taken away most of the dogs, but they still do it. The people eat needle fish and they go in, as I say, from the air. I used to go up to there, which is 60 miles, and they are still doing this.
Question: If you can still do it, why is there a need for ownership of that land, to have a deed for it? If it is Federal land now, you can still do it. Would you tell me why you think that you should have ownership?
(interrupting). Under the bill we say that we want all hunting rights and fishing rights and that is why we have it in there. What I was trying to show you here was that the use and occupancy, we have done this all our life, and what I am trying to show you is that we own the State of Alaska and we should have more than the 40 million acres.
Question: You donít necessarily think, then, that we should recommend or that the committee should recommend to the entire Congress that ownership to all of this land that you referred to in paragraph 2 be recommended, is that correct? You donít think that ownership is completely necessary but that in some way we should treat the hunting and the fishing rights for the Natives?
I think it is very important to own the land.
Question: All of this land?
Yes. I think it is very important to own the land because you can do things with the land. If you have a house and you donít own the land, like they do in Nunivak, there is an example of where the Federal Governmentóthat is a refuge, I forgot to put it in hereówhere the Federal Government took it for a bird refuge and the people on there canít even own the land that their houses are on. I think it is very important that we should own the land.
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.