"Unity on Land Claims"

Anchorage Daily Times, October 22, 1969, p.4

It clearly is in the interest of all Alaskans to obtain an early settlement of the native land claims issue. To achieve this, there is a grave responsibility for those in charge of the effort to come up with a proposal behind which all Alaskans can unite.

This unity cannot be achieved if the native leadership asks for too much — perhaps in the hope of winning from Congress something slightly less, but more than might have been obtained had the goal not been set high in the first place.

This unity cannot be achieved if the non-natives of the state blindly object to any claims presented on behalf of our fellow Indian and Eskimo citizens.

A just settlement, one that will compensate the natives for ancestral lands appropriated a century ago by the federal government, will aid all of Alaska in its march of the future.

Such a settlement by Congress would provide the native people with a special fund of capital on which to build economic and social programs in concert with all of Alaska.

The rest of the state would benefit, under a just settlement, by an infusion of new capital and by the strengthening of one segment of the social structure.

But the solution to the native problem cannot be one that penalizes those it is intended to help, by giving them less than what is due. And it cannot penalize the rest of Alaska by giving too much in the way of land or resources, in a way in which the rest of the development of Alaska would be stifled.

It is not possible to achieve this unity if Congress is to be asked to make any settlement so long as Alaska pays the bill. This is what could happen under the proposal now being advanced under the slogan of "state participation."

Naturally, there are congressmen who would be delighted to settle the claims at any price, so long as Alaska pays the bill.

But that won’t do.

The claims filed by the native people were not filed against the State of Alaska. They are filed, and rightly so, against the government of the United States.

It was not the State of Alaska which appropriated what the Indians and Eskimos contend is aboriginal land. If such seizure is a legal fact, it resulted from an act of the federal government.

State selection of land has been made under provisions of a law passed by the Congress of the United States, in the form of the Alaska Statehood Act. That act represents a compact with the people of Alaska, one that must be honored.

The unity of Alaskans, therefore, must be directed toward Washington, and a just and proper settlement on behalf of the federal government for our native citizens.

What debt and obligation there is lies with the federal government, and the Congress has a responsibility to resolve it as the representative of all the states.

When that is made clear to Congress, by the natives and by all Alaskans, we can unify behind legislation which will settle the lands claims with justice to all.

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