"ASNA's Return Unites AFN: Unity Termed Solid by Members, AFN Now Asking 60 Million Acres"

Tundra Times, December 16, 1970, p.1.


An increase in land claims demands to 60 million acres and a new method of distribution developed at an AFN board meeting last week has brought the Arctic Slope Native Association back into the AFN.

This week, the AFN board will meet in Juneau with Governor William Egan and Attorney General Havelock to finalize the new claims and discuss a plan of action for the coming congressional session.

The final distribution settlement is the result of the first reexamination of the AFN position in two years, according to AFN executive director Eben Hopson.

It is a compromise between the ASNA's insistence on a settlement based on a land loss basis and other groups which wanted to stick to the AFN's former position of distribution on a per capita basis.

The new distribution system will be organized by 12 regional corporations which will administer the asked for 60 million acres. 500 million dollars in cash and two per cent overriding royalty on the value of natural resources exploitation.

Immediately after settlement, each corporation is to receive $8 million of the cash settlement and a percentage of the land received based on that region's claims.

The remaining $404 million will be distributed to the corporations based on the amount of land lost to each.

Oil and mineral resource revenues will be distributed on a 50/50 basis. Half will go to the region from which the resources derive and the other half will be distributed among the other 11 corporations.

AFN board members and ASNA president Joe Upicksoun expressed their satisfaction last week with the compromised settlement which emerged from a four-day meeting of the AFN board and the ASNA directors.

The final settlement recognizes the ASNA position that land claims should be based on land lost, while giving concessions to some of the Native groups with larger populations and less land.

"There is a unified front going to Juneau," Upicksoun told the Tundra Times in an airport interview in Fairbanks. "The president of the AFN performed in a fashion that showed he wanted action from the board to give him direction on a united front. He held the board till they came to basic agreements."

"If the State and the Natives go to Congress together," Upicksoun said about the meeting this week, "we might have some impact on the Department of Interior."

AFN President Don Wright told the press on Saturday he was "very optimistic" about chances of getting the increased land claims bill through Congress in 1971.

Wright has been hired by the AFN board of directors to represent them in Washington during the Congressional session next year.

A U.S. Senate bill passed in this year's Congress cut the Native land settlement to 10 million acres, with a $500 million cash settlement and $500 million in overriding royalties. The House did not act on the bill and it is expected to die at the end of the session.

The four-day AFN board meeting in Anchorage, which started Saturday, December 5, brought tempers flaring as board members debated distribution plans.

Varying from open to closed executive sessions, the meeting included talks by visiting experts, lawyers, and a number of pipeline people who came as observers to listen to the debates.

By Monday, about 20 board members remained in Anchorage to come to a settlement.

The ASNA withdrew from the AFN last October 20 during the National Conference of American Indians convention in Anchorage. At that time, ASNA executive director Charles Edwardsen, Jr., charged the AFN with losing sight of the "fundamental principles upon which the entire settlement is premised. That is, this is a land claims settlement, not a federal welfare program or another piece of anti-poverty legislation."

The small population of the Arctic Slope, which claims 56.6 million acres of Arctic land above the Brooks Range, felt a population distribution system was unfair to their people, whose land encompasses many areas presently sought for oil and mineral exploitation.

Also, the traditional Eskimo mode of life requires vast tracts of land for subsistence living, land which will be sacrificed in a land claims settlement.

During the four-day board meeting the AFN considered going as high as 100 million acres in its land claims demands, before settling on the 60 million acre figure.

Several suggestions, including one to distribute the $500 million on a pure per capita basis, were debated by the AFN board before State Sen. Willie Hensley (D-Kotzebue) suggested the $8 million cash formula.

"Although most of us would like to get the most out of what we're after," commented AFN board member Robert Willard, "there's such a thing as being practical."

The 60 million acre claim was decided upon to satisfy regions such as the Arctic Slope, which could not be satisfied with a 40 million acre claim.

Willard voted for the compromise, despite the fact his own Tlingit-Haida area would gain more out of the former per capita distribution system.

Under the new proposal, areas with high population and less land use, such as the Southeast and Southcentral areas, will not gain as much land or money.

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