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 JOHN BORBRIDGE, PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, CENTRAL COUNCIL OF TLINGIT INDIANS OF ALASKA (spoken)
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, my name is John Borbridge, Jr. I am president and general manager of the Central Council of the Tlingit Indians of Alaska. I further serve the Alaska Federation of Natives as their first vice president.
You have had the opportunity as you have toured Alaska to take a specific look at southeast Alaska. As you landed at Aniak, as you flew over Sitka, as you went from Sitka to Juneau and up to Yakutat, you were in Tlingit and Haida territory.
A lot of times we claim these lands and it is said that it is done so without color of legality. I want to assure you gentlemen that we had the opportunity to go into the court of claims under a Special Jurisdictional Act of 1935, the Court of Claims explicitly upheld in a unanimous decision in 1959 the claim of Indian titles of the Tlingit and Haida Indians for which we received compensation as a partial settlement of our land claims.
Of more specific pertinency to your inquiry as to 2,628,000 acres, this same court held in January of 1968 that there is confirmed and validated Indian title which has not been extinguished. We have gone into the courts, we have proceeded in the adversary proceedings with representatives of the Government and our own attorneys and I repeat it again, here is a large area where there has been no extinguishment, there has been a finding of Indian title, there is the coloration of legality to the claims.
I would state further that insofar as the activities of the Tlingit and Haida. Indians, we protested the sale in 1869. This is included in the very same records of the proceedings of this case of the Tlingit and Haida Indians versus the United States. We further sent out a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1899.
I would like to touch, if I may, on another subject that I know you want to hear about, the regional corporations. In most instances, members of the committee, we have talked in terms of what might happen. I would like to discuss with you what is happening in southeast Alaska, because there you have, a regional corporation, it does exist, it is in operation today. It is formally organized, it is advancing the interests of its people and not a weakening settlement, but moving it here and moving it today.
We as a central council are formally organized. We are recognized by an act of Congress. We have been meeting with members of various industries throughout southeast Alaska, not asking that they recognize us, not asking merely that they acknowledge us, but we have met with members of industry in southeast Alaska because we need them and, very frankly, they need us. We have things that we can offer in terms of the potential and the knowledge of the specific needs and priorities in each of our villages. Industry needs to know the things that we have at our fingertips.
We feel that we are, in a way, advancing in a partnership relationship. The Indians and the natives are not going to sit back and wait for industry to set the pace. Gentlemen, through our regional corporations this is going to be a partnership venture. When industry in this State starts to look around in the next year or two as they are looking now in southeast Alaska, they are going to have to look us in the eye because this is going to be a partnership venture. We are not going to wait to be asked to come in, we are coming in now. In order to do this most expeditiously we must formally organize. This we are proceeding to do now so that, specifically, the democratic guidelines of how our people are elected, how the leaders in each of the villages are elected, can be so formally structured that we have a smooth-flowing operation between each of the villages and the central council itself.
This, I think, is important because it is something that is happening now. I know that you do want to know what are the possibilities and what are the potentials of a region.
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.