"Aspinall Not Buying Administration’s Claims Bill"

by Chris Carlson

Anchorage Daily News April 8, 1971, p. 1

Washington — Rep. Wayne Aspinall, D–Colo., is displeased with the Nixon administration’s Alaska Native land claims bill proposed Tuesday. The powerful chairman of the House Interior Committee said Wednesday, "The administration has done what so many others have done—they've let their hearts go further than their understanding should permit."

Rep. Nick Begich, D–Alaska, however, expressed pleasure with the administration’s proposal. "I’m now convinced we can move without any major roadblocks," he said. "We should be able to come forth with a bill by this summer, possibly in June."

Aspinall, who will be a key figure in the final settlement, said in an exclusive interview that the administration’s more liberal stance did not please him in the slightest.

"Some people think that the Natives have that land as a right, but there are many of us who don’t go along with that," the 74-year-old chairman said. "We'll try for equity so that the Natives’ economy and culture are protected as they work into the American way of doing things."

But he made it clear that as long as he is around the more generous settlements proposed will not be passed.

"What some people also fail to understand is the effect of this legislation on additional requests for Indians in the Lower 48, or even Hawaii for that matter," he added.

Aspinall also charged that the administration bill "is a little contrary to the statehood bill and we have to keep faith with the Statehood Act." He would not elaborate.

The Colorado Democrat said a more detailed reaction from him to the administration bill could be found in his own bill introduced in February.

In that bill, Aspinall proposed 40 million acres for the Natives for subsistence rights, but fee title only for the township in which the village was located plus three contiguous townships—approximately 92,000 acres for each village.

Aspinall’s bill also does away with Native corporations and would set up a central state agency to oversee investment of the Natives’ funds and the taking of a Native roll.

While Aspinall also proposed a $1 billion settlement, only $250 million would be a direct appropriation from the federal government to the Natives. Another $250 million would come from the federal government’s 10 per cent share of mineral revenues.

The remaining $500 million would come from the state’s share, which is 90 per cent, of mineral revenues.

A timetable for settlement of the land claims issue is something which "is in the lap of the gods," Aspinall said. "It depends entirely on the give and take as we go along—if all sides are adamant, it may be difficult," he added.

Begich, when asked for his reaction to the terms of the administration bill, said the $1 billion financial feature is "the easiest provision to obtain." He indicated his agreement with this provision, except for a modification he will propose to the provision for a 2 per cent oil royalty that would give the Natives $500 million.

Begich said administration officials explained to him Tuesday that this 2 per cent would be computed from gross oil revenues received form federal lands in Alaska before the revenue is divided between the state and federal treasury. Under the Statehood Act the state receives 90 per cent of this revenue and the federal government gets the remaining 10 per cent.

The Alaska Democrat said he will recommend that the 10 per cent federal share be earmarked entirely for paying off the Natives’ entitlement of $500 million, thus hopefully easing the state’s obligation in meeting its financial commitment.

On the 40 million acre land grant, Begich said, "I’m not certain that my support will be given for that amount."

"I believe a major portion of Pet 4 (the Naval petroleum reserve on the North Slope) should be given to the Natives," Begich explained.


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