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 OP PETER EZI, TREASURER, VILLAGE COUNCIL OF EKLUTNA
Mr. Chairman, my name is Peter Ezi from the village of Eklutna. I am the treasurer of the village council. On behalf of the people of Eklutna, I would like to welcome you to Alaska and to Anchorage our largest city. Our village is only 26 miles from Anchorage. The Palmer Highway runs right by our doorstep. Telephone and electric lines service our village. These are all new developments in the history of Eklutna. The first white men to visit our people were the Russians. Many tourists traveling the highway stop to see our Russian Orthodox Church which is over a hundred years old, but our ancestors were here long before the building of this church.
In terms of history, then, it is only recently that the Eklutna people have given up the subsistence way of life. Our people once roamed widely over the whole Cook Inlet area and beyond in search of game and fish. Not too long ago, a father of one of my friends used to set rabbit snares right about where Fourth and Gambell cross. We had no money then, but we did have the pride of self-sufficiency. This has all changed now, for our once proud subsistence way of life has been replaced by the wardship way of life.
There has been much progress in the Cook Inlet area as Anchorage grew from a tent city to the largest city in Alaska. The people of Eklutna want to be part of that progress. But we can never make progress until we are allowed to manage our own land and affairs.
The present village location and surrounding area is ideal for commercial development, but we have no land that is really ours to use as we think wise. Over 30 years ago, a reserve of 328,000 acres was set aside for the benefit and use of the Eklutna Indians. Unfortunately, our rights in the reserve land were never made clear, and as a result everyone took the opportunity to take some land from us, so that today less than 2,000 acres remain. Even now, we cannot do anything with this small amount of land because our rights still have never been clarified. As wards of the BIA we had no control over our land. As we struggled for a living, the very land we lived on was being taken away bit by bit. Our supposed guardian, BIA, was sitting idly by while Federal and State agencies came and helped themselves to our land, and the only thing the BIA did was to take some more of the land for itself. The people of Eklutna were never consulted about any of this.
If and when Congress does resolve the land question, I hope with all my heart that control and management of any land and settlement money will be given to the natives rather than leaving the natives under the thumb of the BIA or any other guardian or Government agency.
The native does not want dependency and welfare, but the present system forces him to be dependent and destroys his well-being. We are very proud to be American citizens. We only ask that in the settlement of the land question we be given the means to leave dependency and welfare behind so that we may have the full rights and responsibilities of American citizens.
I can further state that our village and its council supports the Alaska Federation of Nativesí position in the land claims bill.
That is all.
Question: Mr. Ezi, would you give us further details regarding the Federal and State agencies that have taken your land? Can you tell us what some of the agencies are, what their land takings have been for?
The Department of Highways for right-of-way. The Alaska Railroad for right-of-way also, and also lands that were leased to the Army on a freeze permit and I believe that they took the other but I didnít bring any specifics of that.
Question: The Eklutna power project was also a great area that was taken away from you, was it not?
Question: Was there no compensation to the people for any of these taken?
There was no compensation. The State of Alaska Highway Department is going to come through probably sometime this year or next year with the right-of-way of a 300-foot strip. But the land status as it stands now, being on BIA selection, we can negotiate with the highway department to get compensation, but, technically, compensation would go into the Federal general fund under BIA.
Question: You mean you wouldnít know if you negotiated the settlement whether it would be available to you for your own familyís use?
No; for our village improvement and other things the council wants.
Question: Are there any other people other than Government agencies who have taken the land?
There is a couple of patents, one that I can think of to the National Bank of Alaska. This happened back in the 1920ís or early 1900ís.
Question: For what purpose did the bank acquire that?
That also remains unclear to us.
Question: How large a tract was that?
A hundred and sixty acres.
Question: That would have been before the reserveís establishment, would it not?
It would be closer to the 1900ís, yes, before that.
Question: I would like to ask Mr. Ezi to give us a breakdown, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or through their own council, as to who took or who now has 326,000 acres of what you said originally belonged to you. I would like to have that. Can you supply it for the record?
I believe I could try, yes.
Question: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask that counsel staff for the committee be asked to contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get that information directly from the Bureau of Indian Affairs because I think they have the resources to get it, and the gentleman before us has not.
Without objection, the counsel will attempt to get this from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
(Information supplied for the record follows:)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS,
Washington, D.C., December 5, 1969.
Mr. LEWIS A. SIGLER,
Counsel and Consultant on Indian Affairs, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Sigler: In response to your letter of November 24, we are pleased to furnish you information concerning land set aside for the Eklutna Indians.
The United States Bureau of Education established at Eklutna in 1924 an industrial boarding school for Natives of Alaska. By 1927 seven buildings had been erected on a tract of approximately 1,400 acres of public domain land. Upon recommendation of the Bureau of Education and the Secretary of the Interior this tract was "reserved for the use of United States Bureau of Education for educational purposes" by Executive Order No. 4778 on December 5, 1927. The order was slightly modified June 8, 1934, By Executive Order No. 6734, in order to accommodate a homestead entry man who had mistakenly occupied part of the reserved land, thus reducing the school reserve from 1,368 acres to 1,365 acres.
On October 30, 1936, the Acting Secretary of the Interior temporarily withdrew a tract of 328,000 acres, including the original 1.365 acres, "for the use and benefit of the said Eklutna Industrial School, subject to all outstanding withdraw-al and existing valid rights, until the matter of their permanent withdrawal as a reservation can be taken up with the Indian or Eskimo occupants, as provided by Section 2 of the Act of May 1, 1936 (Public No. 538; 74th Congress)" (49 Stat. 1250).
The expansion of the Eklutna school area effected by the 1936 order had been proposed by the Office of Indian Affairs (which In 1931 had taken over the Bureau of Educationís functions in Alaska) on the basis of recommendations by the Supervisor and the Director of Education at Juneau. Their reports stressed the expanding vocational program at the Eklutna school and the need for large land areas for training in farming, fishing, grazing, hunting, timbering, etc. They referred also to an increase in settlement near the original reserve because of the fact that it was traversed by the Alaska Railroad and the Anchorage-Matanuska Valley Highway, the need for protecting the school from outside "encroachment," the beneficial effect of such a large withdrawal on the preservation of game, and the usefulness of the larger area to graduates of the school. Sixty-seven students attended in 1927; by 1936 the number had increased to 112.
On January 21, 1942, however, the General Superintendent at Juneau recom-mended revocation of the 1936 order and establishment of a smaller reserve of 9,200 acres. Reasons given were increased pressures from the Anchorage com-munity for use of woodland within the larger area due to establishment of the Fort Richardson military reserve; the probability of locating the school at a more central area; and the fact that the anticipated increase in native population on the reserve area had not occurred.
On December 18, 1942, the Secretary, again citing the 1936 Act, revoked the 1936 order, except as to 9,200 acres. The approved recommendation states that a "much smaller area than at first anticipated will meet the needs of the natives living in the vicinity," and requested that "the 9.200 acres he retained in a withdrawal or reserved status with a view to later recommending establishment of a reservation for the native inhabitants, should it be determined that such a reservation is desirable and necessary."
The Eklutna school discontinued in 1946, and the buildings were sold or trans-ferred to the Alaska Railroad. So thereafter the General Superintendent of the Alaska Native Service recommended reduction of the reserve to approximately 2,000 acres.
In 1950, the Natives of Eklutna village petitioned for a hearing to determine their possessory rights to the 9,200 acres, and requested that "those lands, plus any additional lands necessary to protect our way of life and assure us the chance to make a decent living be reserved to our use in accordance with the Act of May 1, 1936". However, the Area Director by telegram of May 25, 1953, recommended giving up the entire reserve.
After the Bureauís proposal to abandon the entire area, the Natives again requested a reservation, this time limited to 1,938.31 acres. Thereupon an investigation was made to determine native needs, which resulted in a recom-mendation to secure legislation reserving 1,900 acres for the Indians and return-ing the remainder of the land to public domain status. The reasons indicated for use of the legislative method appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the requirements of the Act of May 1, 1936, and the desire to assure the Natives a compensable interest in the land.
From correspondence in the Bureau files it seems clear that the subsequent decision to retain 1,819 acres rather than to relinquish the entire reserve was made in order to provide for the needs of the natives. Public Land Order No. 2427 (26 Fed. Reg. 6343, issued by the Secretary on July 5, 1961: corrected October 13, 1961 by Public Land Order No. 2516, 26 Fed. Reg. 9832) revoked preceding Executive and Secretarial orders, effected a new withdrawal of 1,819 acres, and reserved the area "under jurisdiction of time Bureau of Indian Affairs for use in connection with administration of native affairs in the vicinity of Eklutna,"
If we can furnish you any further information, please let us know.
T. W. TAYLOR,
Comment: I would like to thank Peter Ezi for being here and I would like to say that I think this is one of the grossest examples of the encroachment of civilization, if you please, and of the white man in pushing the Indian aside. They once had a broad, broad reservation, and it encompassed a lot of the area and the whole development around Anchorage has just pushed and grown and gone into their areas. I think this would be an interesting history for the committee to receive.
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.