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.


My name is Richard A. Miller. I am a teacher in the State-operated school system at Elmendorf Air Force Base. In addition, I am an ordained minister, who has lived in Alaska for the last twenty years except during those times when I have been "outside" in school. My appearance before you today is as an individual who is concerned with a generous and equitable settlement of the Native land claims.

It is indeed a happy pleasure to appear before a committee of the Congress…A Congress which accorded Alaska the most generous treatment ever extended to a new state entering the Union…A Congress which continued this generous treatment at the time of the 1964 earthquake and the 1967 Tanana Valley flood. Your generosity has enabled Alaskans to prove wrong those scoffers who said in 1958 that we could not successfully bear the cost of statehood. Now, you are representatives in the Congress are being asked to settle once and for all time the aboriginal land claims of the first Alaskans, the Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts of our state.

The government of the United States has not always dealt with the American Indian in the most complimentary manner. From my home state of Mississippi the government took the Chickasaws and Choctaws from their farms and homes in the rolling-red hills and valley to Oklahoma, and only a handful escaped to claim a heritage that was theirs. But we are living in more enlightened days, and here on the last frontier we have perhaps the last opportunity to do that which is "Right" by our Native people. There are economic, social and political aspects of this problem, as you well know, but somehow I believe you and your colleagues in Congress want to make your decision on this matter on the basis of what is really morally "right", if you can only know how this can be done. I think this is what all Alaskans want.

As you decide the fate of the Native land claims, you are not making an abstract decision, but one which determines the future of American citizens. They have waited a long time for a solution. I would ask above all things that Congress decide the issue. Hopefully, the settlement will be both generous and equitable. But above all, settle it that Alaskan natives can know their fate. Alaskans will never be completely united on specific details of a settlement, yet this must not deter you from reaching a legislative consumation to the problem. There are economic and political interest in Alaska that seem to begrudge anything to the Native which might eventually come into their control. These are the people who have forgotten the generous treatment given Alaska by Congress in the Statehood bill. These are the people that forget that Alaska was given 103 million acres from the public domain because Congress was fearful that such a small population in such a vast area would need a large share of the resources of the land to sustain the state. These people forget that for the same reason Congress gave Alaska un-equal treatment in the establishing of the ratio on federal-state participation from revenue from federal lands and leases in Alaska.

The September 10 Oil and Gas Lease sale by the State of Alaska may indicate that it is time to re-adjust the percentages in the federal-state share of revenues from federal lands and leases. The adjustment would afford an opportunity to allow the Alaska Natives to share in the revenue and the land claims settled. While it is recognized by most people that the settlement of these claims is the generous treatment given the state of Alaska by Congress was not designed so that we might live without taxation, as some have speculated in the past few weeks. It seems reasonable for the Congress and the people of the United States to expect the State of Alaska and the people to accept a reduction in the state’s share in these revenues. Herein lies an avenue for Native participation in sharing the revenue from all the land of this state. This is not giving the Native anything, but merely recognizing rights that are theirs. An overriding royalty such as the AFN has proposed would unite their future with the future of the entire state. This seems all they want, and to me this is reasonable as well as the "right" thing to do. I would urge the inclusion of a percentage royalty as a high priority in any land settlement.

Much has been said about the amount of land to be awarded the Native people. From my experience in western and northwestern Alaska I believe the land settlement as proposed by the Federal Field Committee and the Department of Interior is much too low. Our Native people use much more than the 40 million acres they ask. To award fee title to a large portion of this 40 million would not be unreasonable, it seems to me. In whatever settlement, the Native should be given the opportunity to choose his future, whether that means subsisting on the land as did his forefathers or finding his way into the dominant culture. Thank you for coming to Alaska. Please give our Alaskan Natives a prompt and equitable and generous settlement of their land claims.


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.

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