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The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Teacher's Guide

UNIT ONE: History of the Act

Unit Overview

Unit One in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Instructional Series centers around the historical and political context in which ANCSA was passed. The issue of land ownership provides the primary focus for this unit. This issue involved the increased competition from diverse groups for claims to land, often the same land. The second focus should be the basis for land claims by Alaskan Natives.

Unit Goals

Upon completion of this lesson the student will:

  1. Understand the issues which brought about the ANCSA legislation.
  2. Understand the rationale for Alaskan Natives rights of land ownership prior to 1971.
  3. Identify events which led to the settlement in 1971.
  4. Identify the principal parties involved in ANCSA.
  5. Define terms used in the lesson. (Optional)

Video Program Summary

The first program in the video series, "History of the Act," begins by discussing the basic values of land. The viewer learns how land can represent both power and wealth; how some areas have special cultural or historical meaning; and the importance of untouched land for its aesthetic and ecological value. The program discusses how important land and its resources are to those Alaskan Natives who live by subsistence hunting and fishing.

The history of who "owned" Alaska's land is traced from before the Russians arrived, through the mid-1960's. A number of key legal documents and concepts that helped Alaskan Natives get their claim through Congress are discussed.

The program takes the viewer through events in the 1960's that led to passage of ANCSA. As more land was needed for resource development or acquisition by the state government, Alaskan Natives united to fight for settlement of their land claims. By 1966, the Alaska Federation of Natives had been formed to represent Natives from all across the state. This program shows the effects of the land freeze imposed by the Secretary of the Interior, and of the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay.

There were five principal parties involved in negotiating ANCSA: Alaskan Natives, the state government, the oil companies, the conservationist groups, and the federal government. Program One shows the involvement that each group had on the bill signed into law by President Nixon on December 18, 1971.

Quick Reference Outline