"Alaska Natives Testify Against Administration Claims Proposal"

Southeast Alaska Empire, April 30 1971, p.1

Washington — Alaska Natives testified Thursday against an administration proposal and endorsed a bill which would settle their aboriginal land claims for $1 billion and 60 million acres of land.

Secretary of Interior Rogers C.B. Morton urged the Senate Interior Committee to approve the administration measure to pay $1 billion and give 40 million acres to the 55,000 Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians.

He called his proposal "a just and equitable settlement" of the Natives’ claims to most of the Alaska land area.

The administration bill calls for appropriations totaling $500 million and mineral royalties on public land production up to $500 million, plus the 40 million acres of land.

Spokesmen for several Alaska Native groups criticized the administration proposal and supported the 60-million-acre bill introduced by Sen. Fred Harris, D-Okla.

Don Wright, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, told the committee the Natives would prefer the larger acreage and elimination of the administration bill’s $500 million royalty ceiling. There would be no limit under the Harris bill.

Committee Chairman Henry Jackson, D-Wash., asked if Indian groups in the lower 48 states might consider the Alaska case as a precedent and demand similar bills.

Wright said he had talked with Indian leaders in the lower 48 states and they all believe the Alaska case should be considered strictly on its merits.

Edward Weinberg, attorney for the federation, said the money provisions of the administration’s bill were deficient and its land provisions would "relegate Alaska Natives to select from second best and second choice lands."

Phil R. Holdsworth said in testimony prepared for the Alaska Chamber of Commerce that the organization has "softened its position in regard to the state’s financial participation in the settlement.

"We still feel that the basic issue is a federal responsibility" he said, "but after experiencing a long delay in any hopes of an early settlement, and the resultant economic depression which has hit business in the state, we are not recommending that the state participate financially . . ."

He recommended that this be done through mineral royalties as proposed in the Administration bill, which otherwise would go to the state, with a $500 million limit.

The House Interior committee opens hearings on Alaska Land claim legislation next week.

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