"AFN President ‘Optimistic’ about Claims Bill in Congress"

by Barry Flynn, Daily News Staff Writer

Anchorage Daily News, December 13, 1970, p.1

Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) President Don Wright said Saturday he is "very optimistic" about the chances of getting through Congress in 1971 a land claims bill providing for retention of 60 million acres by the Natives.

The new demand, an increase of 20 million acres over the AFN’s earlier request of 40 million, was worked out at a four-day meeting of AFN board members Dec. 5-8 in Anchorage.

The meeting also saw the return to the fold of the maverick Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) which had dropped out of the organization Oct. 20 because of differences with the AFN leadership over goals.

"They never really broke away," Wright said. "They just had a position they felt was never fully understood or considered by the AFN. They felt AFN had not done all it could to get a good bill through Congress.

"The ASNA felt their emphasis that this was a land claims settlement was not fully understood by everyone in AFN," Wright added. "They made their point at the meeting and now we’re headed in the right direction."

Some 20 board members of the AFN and the entire seven-man board of the ASNA attended the meeting.

Ramsey Clark, national council for the AFN and former U.S. Attorney General, was at the first day’s session.

The meeting was scheduled after the National Congress of American Indians convention in October when the ASNA withdrew from the AFN. The purpose of the meeting, Wright said, was to allow him to report on his month-long trip to Washington and to afford the two groups an opportunity for reconciliation.

The four-day session was an open one with some 20 "interested Natives," representatives of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., and a former member of the Federal Field Committee attending some sessions.

The AFN board members "ran late sessions every evening" and held closed executive sessions during which many of the details were worked out, Wright said.

Wright also said AFN representatives would go to Juneau next weekend to talk to Gov. William Egan and members of his administration.

Atty. Gen. John Havelock, reached in Juneau, said the governor’s stand has been to remain flexible on the land settlement issue and work for a compromise.

"I suspect that position is not going to change as a result of the change in the AFN position," he said.

Havelock said he was pleased to see the ASNA rejoin the AFN.

"I think it’s healthy," he said. "It’s neither in the Natives’ interest nor the state’s interest to have large numbers of groups take different stands.

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