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 HOWARD ROCK, EDITOR, TUNDRA TIMES, FAIRBANKS (spoken)
I am Howard Rock, editor of the Tundra Times, a native newspaper published here in Fairbanks for the benefit of the Alaska Native people and also for the benefit of the rest of the population of our State.
I was born at Point Hope, an ancient village in the far northwestern corner of arctic Alaska. I am a direct descendant of a bowhead whale hunting family who also hunted polar bears, seals, oogruks, belugas, walrus, wolves, wolverines, and caribou, and who also fished for grayling, salmon, tomcod, crab, and other fishes and crustaceans.
When I was a youth I helped hunt whales with my father and his crew. Although I was trained to be a hunter, I was kind of sidetracked by the little missionary school at Point Hope. I was curious about the white world and I went after education to try to find out what made it go on. I became an artist in the process and I also became the editor of the Tundra Times without asking for it or working for it or training for it.
I was asked by a gentlemen from Milton, Mass., to do this. He asked me to be the editor of the paper and I told him I wasn’t able to do the job but he insisted.
The first edition of the Tundra Times came off the press on October 1, 1962, here in Fairbanks. We have had to handle many controversial matters and often stepped on toes and some of those were big ones and they stepped on ours also.
Right from the beginning, in fact, in the first issue, we mentioned land claims and historic rights of the Alaska native people.
One of the most difficult assignments we handled, I believe, was when we tackled the Pribilof Islands situation. We charged then that the Interior Department was ruling the people of Pribilof Islands in a semiservitude manner.
I would now like to say a little bit about land use. In Alaska here I hope what I say will help clarify once and for all the differences in these uses because they are, indeed, different, differences between land uses in Alaska by the Native people and the land uses of the lower 48 people.
We continually hear people from other States say something like this: "Why do you need so much land?" To ask a Native person this question is akin to an insult. It is a silly question, an uneducated question as far as the Native man or woman is concerned. The Native person knows the meaning of his land and how much land his village needs to keep it going.
The farms and lots in other States, as used there, always seem to wind up as criteria when lands are considered in connection with Native Alaskan peoples. This is absurd, an unrealistic view of those who have never seen how our people use their land.
The Alaska Federation of Natives asks for 40 million acres, and they originally asked for 80 million acres and they thought that was not enough even then. Now they are under pressure, the people of Alaska, that the 40 million be whittled down to something like 10 million acres.
We are also under pressure, and this is a very good pressure, feeling the need for the land to be settled. Therefore, I think that you should, along with us, consider that we have a big problem and you should try to help us as much as you can so we can realize what we are asking for.
The Native leadership and their people at the present time are on a mission of unselfish venture. They are laboring to provide a meaningful life for our future generations of Native Alaskans. If the land settlement happens to be satisfactory, too many of us will never fully reap the fruits of our labor, but we will have realized that what we have done will mean a decent, comfortable life for our sons and daughters.
But we will also insist that our descendants work hard for its perpetuity to keep it a continuing blessing whether by brawn or mental effort. We will insist on progressiveness without laxity. We will insist on laboring efforts and not allow our people to leech on the easy-way-out methods. We will insist that they earn the blessing with hard, honest work.
These things we will do, gentlemen, if lands we most revere are left to us in sufficient expanses so we can truly be a part of the development of our State without shame, without rejection.
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.