"Statewide Native Unity Achieved at Conference"
Tundra Times, October 28, 1966, p.1.
"Land Act Drawn up by Delegates at Anchorage Meet"
Alaska's Native leaders are hopeful of quick Congressional action on their proposed legislation giving the U.S. Court of Claims jurisdiction over Native land claims.
Support of the act has been given by incumbent Governor William Egan and GOP gubernatorial candidate Walter Hickel.
Although many of the key leaders realize the extent of the problems to be ironed out by the Court of Claims, especially in regards to lands claimed by Natives but already sold to a third party, they are certain that fast action by Congress will protect all parties until the Court of Claims can begin hearings.
Legal advice on the wording of the Act was worked out by attorneys hired by various Native Associations but the content of the Act was worked out in the Land Claims Committee of the Statewide Native Conference by the leaders themselves.
Conferring jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims to hear, examine, adjudicate, and render judgment in any and all claims which the Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts of Alaska, or any tribe or band thereof, may have against the United States, and for other purposes.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.
Sec. 1. JURISDICTION. Jurisdiction is hereby conferred upon the Court of Claims to hear, determine and enter judgment upon the claims against the United States of any tribe, band, village, community, association, or other identifiable group of Eskimos, Aleuts, or Indians, resident in Alaska, including identifiable groups of residents of a locality (all hereafter collectively referred to as Natives of Alaska or as "claimant").
Jurisdiction is also conferred upon the Court of Claims to hear, determine and render judgment upon all claims that the Natives of Alaska may have against the United States in connection with lands to which the Natives of Alaska claim Indian title by virtue of the aboriginal use and occupancy of such lands from time immemorial. In determining lands to which the Natives of Alaska had or have Indian title for purposes of this Act, the Court shall not exclude any lands solely by reason of the fact that such lands were abandoned by the Natives of Alaska involuntary or because lack of game or other changed conditions not under their control made the continued use of such lands impractical. In considering any claim pursuant to this Act, the Court is hereby empowered to conduct its own investigations into the facts as well as to rely upon the evidence furnished by the claimants.
Sec. 2. LANDS DISPOSED OF TO THIRD PARTIES. (a) With respect to any claim by the Natives of Alaska pursuant to this Act involving lands to which the Natives of Alaska claimed Indian title and which the United States disposed of to third parties, the Court of Claims, if it determines that the Natives of Alaska had Indian title to such lands so disposed of, shall render judgment on behalf of the Natives of Alaska for such amount as the Court shall find to be the fair market value of such lands.
(b) With respect to any claim by the Natives of Alaska pursuant to this Act involving lands to which the Natives of Alaska claim Indian title, and which have not been disposed of by the United States to any third party, the Court, if it determines that the Natives of Alaska have Indian title to such lands so claimed, shall award the Natives of Alaska judgment of ownership of such lands.
Sec. 3. FILING AND PRESENTATION OF CLAIMS. Any claim cognizable under this Act may be filed and presented to the Court, in a representative capacity, by any member of a claimant, or by a segment of a claimant, or by a successor organization in which the identity or interests of the claimant have merged, provided, that wherever there exists a governing body or other organization of a claimant recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as having authority to represent such claimant, such governing body or organization shall have that exclusive right to represent the claimant in the absence of fraud, collusion, or laches on the part of such governing body or organization. No filing or other fees shall be charged to claimants.
Sec 4. LIMITATION OF TIME FOR FILING CLAIMS. Claims may be filed for a period of three years after the date of this Act, provided, that for good cause shown, the Court may grant extensions, not exceeding a total of one year, in which to file claims.
Sec. 5. DEFENSES OF LIMITATIONS AND LACHES BARRED. All claims under this Act may be heard and determined notwithstanding any statute of limitations or laches, but all other defenses be available to the United States.
Sec. 6. COMPROMISE OF CLAIMS. The United States and the claimants are authorized to compromise claims with the approval of the Court. The Court shall establish appropriate procedures to encourage the compromise of claims.
Sec. 7. ATTORNEY'S FEES. The fees of attorneys shall be determined in accordance with the standards established in Section 15 of the Indian Claims Commission Act (25 U.S.C. 70a) and shall not exceed ten per centum of the amount recovered in any case.
Sec. 8. USE OF DOCUMENTS AS EVIDENCE. In any suit instituted hereunder any letter, paper, document, map, or record in the possession of any officer or department of the United States (or certified copies thereof) may be in evidence, and the departments of the Government of the United States shall give full and free access to the attorney or attorneys for said Natives of Alaska to such letters, papers, documents, maps, or records as may be useful to said attorney or attorneys in the preparation for trial or trials of such suit or suits.
Sec. 9. DISPOSAL OF LAND. Following the date of the enactment of this Act, no lands with respect to which a claim is filed pursuant to this Act and over which the United States had jurisdiction shall be disposed of by the United States pending the final disposition of such claim.
"Political Power One Purpose of Organization"
The largest gathering of Native leaders ever held in Alaska ended in Anchorage last weekend with the formation of a statewide Native organization.
There were few dissenting voices heard against the action according to the new group's chairman Flore Lekanof and representatives for each of the organized Native associations throughout the state spoke in favor of the move.
Lekanof, a Pribilovian now living in Fairbanks, said the group was "primarily to exert political pressure."
The chairman said the organization would be non-partisan.
"We will support the people who support our programs."
The 22-member board of directors will probably meet two weeks before the state legislature opens, Lekanof said.
"We already have a commitment from Alfred Fothergill, temporary director of the Alaska State Community Action Program, that transportation costs of the board will be paid under the Grassroots Program."
Lekanof said the action to form the statewide organization came as a natural consequence of the Natives realizing their voting power and the need for them to solve their own problems.
"When any group of people can pull one-fifth to one-sixth of the total votes in a state then they can exert power and the Natives in this state are becoming more articulate in their desire to help themselves," Lekanof said.
"Certainly there are a lot of young Native Alaskans who are college graduates or who are attending the University of Alaska who are conscious of their ability and the importance of being able to speak up."
Lekanof said there would "certainly be discussion" on whether or not non-Natives would have some type of membership in the organization and said that unorganized areas would be represented "with the understanding that they form their own association."
"Eventually we hope to have a paid, permanent staff and are investigating the possibilities of financing now. The American Association of Indian Affairs is supported by private foundations and the AAIA is helping us to contact foundations that may be interested in supporting us."
The chairman said the different Native groups meeting in Anchorage "found they have some common problems" and the organization has set up a number of standing committees.
Robert Peratrovich, President of the Tlinget-Haida Association, is chairman of the Education Committee; Charles Edwardsen of Fairbanks chairs the Native Employment Committee; Lloyd Sutton of Anchorage chairs the Health and Welfare Committee; George Olson, president of the Chugach Native Association, chairs the Transportation and Communication Committee; William Hensley of Kotzebue chairs the Land Claims Committee; Emil Notti, president of the Cook Inlet Native Association chairs the Housing Committee; and Howard Rock, editor of the Tundra Times, chairs the Public Relations committee.
Lekanof said the idea for a statewide group has been advocated by several Native leaders for many years.
"When the Alaska Native Brotherhood organized 50 years ago I am sure they intended to include the entire state, but their interests were mainly in southeastern Alaska and they were unable to capture the interest of the rest of the state. This latest development was spearheaded by the Fairbanks Native Association with the help of Nick Gray, who also helped to organize the Cook Inlet and Kuskokwim Native Associations.
"The Tundra Times did a lot to let the people know of this movementthe newspaper you might way carved the way."
Directors of the new organization include: Emil Notti, Richard Frank, Tanana Chiefs Conference; Jules Wright, Fairbanks Native Association; Robert Peratrovich, Tlingit-Haida Association; Tony Lewis, Kuskokwim Valley Native Association; Paul Gunderson, Port Moore, unorganized; Frank Degnan, Norton Sound; George Olson, Chugach Native Association; Lloyd Sutton, Tlingit-Haida Anchorage Association; Paul Gruve, McGrath, unorganized; George Allen, Tatitlek Village Council; William Hensley, Northwest Native Association; Oscar Craig, Copper Center; Jerome Trigg, Arctic Native Brotherhood, Nome; Tom Riley, Ugashik, unorganized; Andrew Isaac, Tanacross; Markle Ewan, ANB Copper Center Camp 31; Abel Akpik, Arctic Slope Native Association; Rike Murphy, Kenai.
Nick Gray was named honorary chairman.