The Tyonek Story
by Robert G. Knox
Alaska Construction and Oil Report, Vol. 9, No. 7, July 1968. Used with permission of the publisher, for educational purposes only.
The Board of Governors Room of the New York Stock Exchange is the epitome of Money spelled with a capital M. Located on one of the upper floors of the exchange building far, far away from the noise and confusion of the exchange floor, the room is large and spacious with extremely high ceilings. It is decorated tastefully in the colors you might expectgreen and gold. There is a good deal of highly polished mahogany scattered about and your feet sink into deep, soft carpeting.
One section of the room is occupied by some forty or more leather-cushioned armchairs arranged in several rows in a semi-circle facing the desk of the exchange president. Here the board holds its meetings and each seat has an engraved nameplate for the member of the board who is its occupant. In the other section of the room, the furniture is arranged less formally, and here the governors hold their receptions. (The cocktails, as you might expect, are rather conservative.)
One such reception was held in the spring of 1966 for a visiting group of financial writers, and the chief topic of conversation was the then-current battle of the stock exchange with the City of New York over a proposed increase in stock certificate transfer taxes. At that time the battle had grown to such a heated pitch the exchange was making threats to pick up its trading equipment and move bodily out of the city. It was, of course, the recipient of numerous invitations from other communities and nearby cities to move in.
The invitation which drew the most attention in that cocktail-hour conversation was one from of all unlikely placesthe Indian village of Tyonek on the shores of Alaska's Cook Inlet. In fact, that invitation had made such a hit with exchange officials that the vice president read it to the visiting writers. The letter, signed by Albert S. Kaloa, Jr., chief of the Tyoneks on the Moquawkie Reservation, went like this:
"We read with interest the difficulties you are having with the City of New York concerning . . . taxes that are levied against you. We also noted with interest that you contemplate a change of location.
"We will build an exchange facility at Tyonek, Alaska, at no expense to you, of sufficient design to accommodate the New York Stock Exchange . . .
"The contrast from the insane rush of humanity, jammed one against another in the heart of New York City, without fresh air, and occasionally without lights, with the spacious beauty of Alaska and its relaxing atmosphere, may be of some attraction to the exchange members . . ."
The letter went on to say that the Indians might contemplate building the facility in another area, but certainly not in New York City.
"The Manhattan incident is a painful memory," the letter said, "and we still have a few of the beads. We are somewhat amused that the white people are now reduced to skinning one another instead of skinning the Indians."
"While the Tyonek invitation may have been only a jest, it did certainly point up the fact that the makers of the invitation were far from typical Alaskan Indians and that Tyonek is far from a typical Alaskan Indian village. It was interesting, too, that some of the story of these "oil-rich Indians" had penetrated as far back as the confines of the New York Stock Exchange.
Parts of that Tyonek story have been told many times before and since that invitation. The readers of such diverse publications as the London Daily Express, the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Time magazine have read reports of how in the past few years the fifty or so families living in Tyonek have reaped a harvest of better than $14 million from the sale of oil leases on their reservation lands and what this bonanza has meant in drastically improved living standards and shrewd investments. But the story is more complicated than just those bare facts. It is more interesting, too, and a story that is still unfolding. In the light of the still-unsettled Indian and Eskimo land claims which blanket nearly all of Alaska, it is a story which might be repeated many, many times in the future.
It is a story, also, with a good bit of irony for the oil companies involved. While the Tyoneks have a nice, hefty collective bank account from the sale of oil leases dating back to 1961, not one drop of oil has been taken out of the ground on the Indian reservation. A little gas has been found, but other than that it has been just a story of dry holes.
To really start at the beginning of the Tyonek story would require going back into the dim reaches of pre-history. The Tyoneks, as they are now generally called, are actually of the Moquawkie tribe which is a tiny branch of the Athabascan family of tribes that settled most of interior Alaska. Just how these Indians came to be here, and from where they came, are not questions to be settled here. But they have been at this spot on the northwest shore of Cook Inlet, some 45 miles south of Anchorage, for a good many years. Ivan Petroff's census report of 1880 listed "Tyonek" as consisting of "2 whites, 6 creoles, and 109 natives.'' (Down through the years the village has also been known at various times as Moquawkie and Beluga, and the Tyonek has been spelled in various ways including Tiunok, Toyonok, Tuiunak, Tuiunuk, Tyonick, Tyoonok, and Tyunok. Supposedly, Tyonek comes from an Indian word, tyon, or chief, and ok, the diminutive, little chief. The Eskimo name Tuiunuk reportedly means "marsh people.")
If true, it is an apt description as Tyonek is located in a marshy, muskeg area cloaked with black spruce and birch trees, dotted with little lakes and laced with creeks flowing out to the inlet. The village itself sits atop a bluff just up from the beach and looks out at the silty waters of the inlet which now are filling with stationary "ships"the oil drilling and production platforms.
In the earlier days of Tyonek the only vessels in the inlet were those of the Indians themselves, the crude home-built boats in which they learned to navigate the inlet and ply their trade as fishermen. The Tyoneks were people of the woods as well as the sea, and hunting and trapping also played an important part in their economy. It was typical "feast or famine" economy of people who depend on nature, but there were good times as well as bad back in those days when the salmon and moose were the two staples.
The coming of civilization was no favor. For many years it seemed as though Tyonek felt all of the ill effects and none of the good. No road or railroad came near the village (and still hasn't today), and the only method of travel remained the small boat navigating the tricky waters of the inlet. But as civilization did encroach on the surrounding areas the hunting and trapping dwindled and in later years even the fishing declined.
There was one good result of this emerging into the white man's world which must be mentioned because later it would prove the key to the whole story. In the teen years of this century President Woodrow Wilson signed an order setting aside a 24,000-acre reservation for the Tyoneks. At the time it seemed a typically worthless present from the white man (like those barren acres in Oklahoma) as it only formalized the Tyoneks' title to land they already possessed and lands which no one else really wanted.
But to the children of the Tyoneks living then, this title to their lands would become really priceless.
Meanwhile, life seemed to go on the same, although the economy of the village was ever slipping downward. By the start of the 1950s the hunting and trapping were all but gone and fishing was but little better. In 1952 the government put new regulations into effect which cut the commercial salmon season in Cook Inlet to only two days a week, and this just about kicked the last prop from under Tyonek.
There was some attempt to better things. That year the village attempted to start a coal-mining industry on a small scale. There are coal deposits in the area, and the village council, with the aid of the native service school teacher, Willis Graham, secured an order for 165 tons to be distributed and sold by the native service to other Alaska villages. The order was filled successfully, but the mining venture was nothing of a permanent nature. Within a year the teacher was transferred to another village, the mining attempt died away, and Tyonek sank back into economic stagnation where the main dependence was on welfare and social security checks.
That living on a dole, of course, is nothing unusual for native villages in Alaska. Tyonek today is the exception. The average nativeIndian, Eskimo or Aleutcontinues to live in deep, grinding poverty.
But Tyonek did come to light occasionally, mainly due to its nearness to and relationship with the city of Anchorage. Once, in 1955, a television program called "People Are Funny" apparently thought there would be something funny in delivering a television set to a remote Indian village where the inhabitants lived often on the brink of starvation.
Quite naturally Art Linkletter would select a blonde, 17-year-old Hollywood High School student to deliver the set. (It is almost impossible to believe, but the publicity releases said she went by the nickname of "Bo Peep.") The delivery was made via bush plane and dogsled. No matter what the Tyoneks may really have thought of all this, the publicity flack wrote:
"The amazed villagers babbled excitedly and pressed closer to the TV receiver to get a better look at this electronic marvel. . .
The television program and the set manufacturer gained a wad of national publicity from this stunt. Meanwhile, the Tyoneks continued to live in their ramshackle, unpainted shacks without electricity and without TV sets. By December of that year the Anchorage newspapers were carrying stories that Chief Simeon Chickalusia and the 125 villagers were near starvation and appealing for aid. A reporter who visited the village wrote that the store was nearly empty of all food and all of the Indians agreed that aid was needed. He said the one exception to the opinion was the schoolmaster, Rolland Bennett, who denied that the Tyonek were really in such bad shape. The story went on:
"If they are out of money, Bennett says of the natives, it's because the money has been ill spent. Their welfare checks are too often spent for liquor, he claims."
The people of Anchorage were more charitable. More than 1,000 pounds of food were collected in barrels placed in area grocery stores. Five Anchorage pilots flew a total of 2,500 pounds of food into the village in volunteer flights. One of these pilots, incidentally, was an Anchorage attorney, Stanley McCutcheon, who was to continue to figure prominently in the Tyonek story.
The fact that the relief planes were able to land right at the village was only a fairly recent development. The first landing strip there, a 1,450-foot dirt strip, wasn't completed until September of 1951. (It was built by the K.C. Patton Company of Seldovia under a $3,000 negotiated contract with the territorial Department of Aviation). Before that time planes had to land on the beach at Tyonek, a somewhat tricky procedure, which was only possible in the summer months and not during high tides.
In 1955, one idea to get money flowing into the village was to receive approval for an extension project for the airstrip. Another was for the operation of a sawmill in the area. Neither would advance far enough to offer any real assistance to the village. But at the same time other events were taking shape which would change the village completely.
By that time oil exploration was going forward on the nearby Kenai Peninsula. In less than two years, on July 19, 1957, the discovery well was brought in at Alaska's first field, the Swanson River field. The discovery well would change a lot of things in Alaska. But perhaps nowhere in the state would its importance be so great as at Tyonek. From that day on the producing oil and gas wells continued to edge ever closer to the village, out into Cook Inlet and then toward the Tyonek shore.
When the Tyoneks realized they might very easily be living atop a vast pool of oil they quite naturally wanted the wealth which it might bring. They already had in their employ the individual who would play the major role in bringing this about. He was Stanley McCutcheon, the attorney-pilot, who for many years had represented the Tyoneks. McCutcheon launched what would be a lengthy battle.
The first round was opened on July 25, 1961. It couldn't be said that the battle was won until June 1964, when receipts from a sale of leases on the reservation were turned over to the tribe.
That opening round was the introduction in Congress, by Rep. Ralph J. Rivers, of a bill to authorize the village of Tyonek to issue oil and gas leases on the land surrounding the villages inside the reservation. In introducing his bill, Rivers noted that the land was withdrawn by the Interior Department "for educational purposes and the economic advantage of the people within the Moquawkie Indian reservation."
It should be noted here thatdespite the fact that in recent years it has become unpopular to say sonot all Alaskans thought originally or even think now that the Tyoneks were entitled to all the money raised from leases on the reservation. Too, at times, the fight divided strictly on political party lines and the fact that attorney McCutcheon was a power in the Democratic party in Alaska when there was a Democratic administration in Washington may have had more than just a little to do with the eventual outcome.
When Democrat Rivers entered his bill in 1961, one Anchorage newspaper writer speculated about the possible results and wondered if "a small village that might qualify as Alaska's least prosperous may become a community of millionaires . . ."
The writer noted that while there are substantial deposits of coal in the reservation, the land was most valuable for its petroleum potential. He pointed out that state land nearby had drawn bonus bids up to $906 an acre and quoted oil geologists as estimating that the land in the reservation "would bring up to $10 million in oil-lease bonuses if it were put up for sale at the present time."
He also gave an explanation of why the Rivers bill was needed:
"The barrier between the Indians and this colossal cash windfall is the fact that neither the Indians who hold the surface rights on the land nor the Interior Department, which granted them the land, is legally empowered to lease mineral rights.
Only Congress can grant this right and Rivers is seeking to breach the barrier with a bill to give leasing rights to the people of Tyonek."
He quoted the congressman as saying the bill would be equivalent to a grant of the sub-surface values to the Indians, and then asked Rivers why the bill was not written to include all of the Indians and Eskimos of Alaska. The answer by the congressman is interesting in view of the presently pending native claims:
"The area in question (Tyonek) was segregated from the public domain for the benefit of the Indians residing there, and there is already precedent for granting sub-surface rights to Indians within their reservations.
"There is no basis under our federal land policy for a sweeping grant of such rights to all cities, towns and villages in the country," Rivers pointed out.
This article was also the first indication that Tyonek and its legal advisor were already planning what to do with the money once it had been obtained. It noted that it was unlikely that the money would be parceled out directly to the villagers, and went on:
"Anchorage attorney Stanley McCutcheon, who has handled various legal matters for the incorporated community and who is following the progress of the Rivers bill, said the money would not be placed directly in the hands of the reservation residents."
McCutcheon said it was expected a "board of trustees" would he formed and the board together with the village council would act subject to the approval of the secretary of the interior. Things didn't work out exactly that way but nearly enough so that McCutcheon could get honors as a prophet. The working out, though, took three years or more of complicated, often obscure, legal maneuvering and battling. It would take an attorney to follow all the twists and turns of the legal path followed by the Tyoneks and it does a layman little good to attempt to follow the trail.
Suffice it to say the Rivers bill never came to light again. But instead, in January of 1963, Rivers announced he had been informed by the Interior Department that it had now decided that it did have authority to put the 25,000 acres of the reservation up for leasing. (It must be noted that in the months it took to make this legal about-face the oil companies were actively exploring the reservation lands in seismic research and they were also drilling successful wells about the perimeter of the reservation just outside its boundaries.)
These successful wells formed the basis for Interior's new stand. Rivers said Interior had determined "that exploration on adjacent land under lease from the State of Alaska is causing drainage from the subsurface values of this reserve," and that under these circumstances existing law authorized the secretary to intervene and lease such land competitively.
Now, the sale was eventually scheduled to be held April 3, 1963, in Anchorage. It became the target for a barrage of lawsuits and it was halted at the lastthe very lastminute.
The Tyoneks weren't happy with the sale because it wasn't spelled out definitely that they would get the money. Some of the oil companies weren't happy with it because they feared a legal hangup would stop issuing of leases after their high bids had been disclosed. The result was that the sale scheduled to start at 2 p.m. was halted at 1:58 p.m. when a lawyer representing several of the oil companies obtained a court order.
By early the next year the Tyoneks had made a lot of legal progress. It was announced February 26, 1964, that what was now described as the 26,600-acre Tyonek Reserve would be put up for bids on May 6. (The size of the Tyonek reserve, reservation or whatever you want to call it, fluctuates in public accounts all the way from 23,000 to 27,000 acres. The very next notice of the sale, in March, said an actual 25,573 acres would be offered for sale.)
The sale actually did go through, although after the bids were opened the Tyoneks balked for awhile at accepting the high offers until they worked out an agreement with the Interior secretary.
Terms of the sale called for competitive bonus bids along with an annual rental fee of $1.25 an acre plus a 16 2/3 per cent royalty on any and all production of oil or natural gas. The 31 tracts, ranging in size from 608 to 1,300 acres, drew a lot of interest from the major oil companies and high bonus bids totaled $12,942,972.04. The high bonus bidders included: Atlantic Refining Company bidding jointly with Socony Mobil Oil Company; a combine consisting of Pan American Petroleum Corporation, Phillips Petroleum Company, Skelly Oil Company and Sinclair Oil and Gas Company; British American Oil Producing Company, Richfield Oil Company and Standard Oil Company of California; Pure Oil Company bidding jointly with Superior Oil Company; and American Petrofina Holding Company.
Things weren't completely settled yet. Just a few days after the sale a newspaper headline read: "Democrats Ask Udall Ouster Unless Tyonek Indians Aided" and Wendell P. Kay, state Democratic chairman, was sending the President a "strongly-worded" telegram (written by McCutcheon).
The problem which now continued to make Interior Secretary Stewart Udall the bogeyman was just what kind of a program Interior would approve for use of the oil lease funds and how the program would be approved. The Tyoneks were hopeful that approval of the program as it went along could be made at the local level by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They had some $12 million to invest now and naturally they didn't want it tied up in red tape which would require approval of every decision to come down the long chain of command from Washington. In the end, local approval was just about what was decided on. The program itself, which the Tyoneks offered for use of their funds, was of such a reasonable, conservative nature that it would have been difficult for any government agency to disapprove it.
One of the first acts of the Village Council, after the lease sale, was to pay off a $31,434 mortgage on the village store. Rebuilding of the village community hall came next.
Then the council approved a 10-point program, including improvements to village roads, extension and expansion of the village airstrip, and health and welfare projects. The Tyoneks established a $200,000 trust fund to insure that Tyonek youngsters will always have the means to pursue an education. (Later the Tyoneks also set up another $50,000 scholarship loan fund which will enable any Alaskan of native blood to take post-graduate college work.)
The village also adopted what it chose to call a family improvement plan, under which families were entitled to a base amount, plus $5,000 per person, to a maximum of $40,000 per family, regardless of its residence, whether in Tyonek or elsewhere, for use of the money and it was approved by the village council.
How did the Tyoneks come up with such a plan? It didn't just drop out of the sky. They had some leaders with good, sound common sense and they got some good outside advice.
The first thing the Indians had done after the sale was to rule out a minority proposal for a per capita split of the entire $12 million windfall. Their leaders knew that such a distribution had never worked elsewhere. In the past too many Indians were conned out of their money or blew it oil luxuries.
The Tyoneks hired a trained sociologist, Francis M. Stevens, a graduate of the University of Minnesota and a specialist in community development. Then three members of the village council, Albert Kaloa, Jr., president; Sephaphim Stephen, vice president; and Fred Bismark, accompanied by Stevens and McCutcheon, went on a tour of Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico that had received considerable money and had programs for tribal development. They saw a lot, and they learned a lotoften about the wrong way to do things.
They were dismayed, Stevens said, to find none of the programs really working well.
"The Navajos had received millions, yet they were still living in primitive shacks," he said. "The Navajos had an unwieldy 75-man council and a top-heavy BIA structure."
This controlling apparatus was so big and so expensive that the Navajos were getting little visible benefit from their money. The Tyoneks returned to their village convinced, as Stevens put it, that they "must absolutely handle the money themselves and not let the bureau run up the overhead."
A family-plan advisory committee was created to supervise the spending of the $5,000 per capita allocations. A member of that watchdog group, Mrs. Doris Seraphim, was to tell a writer later that it really made some hard and fast decisions. It was a committee that could be toughshe said they rejected such requests as $1,200 for a color television set, for wall-to-wall carpeting that would have cost $3,500 (the family was told to get a lower estimate) and for fancy automobiles which could only have been used on the few miles of dirt road around the village.
On the other hand, requests for jeeps, pick-up trucks, clothing, household appliances, furniture and outboard motors were generally approved.
At the same time a major program of home construction started in the village. Within two years of that first lease sale, 59 new one- two- and three-bedroom homes (one for each family living there) were completed in the village, along with an eight-room guest house, at a total cost of $I.5 million. The 50 or so Tyoneks who were living in Anchorage also got new homes. The village council built new homes there at a total cost of some $500,000, and in Anchorage the council encouraged the building of duplexes and triplexes, to provide their fellow tribesmen living in the city with a continuing source of income as well as new housing.
The Tyoneks also were embarking on a program of tribal investments which would see them set up the Tyonek Management Corporation and enter several fields of business, principally in the Anchorage area. In the first days after the lease sale, the Tyoneks were offered all too much advice about how to spend their money. They were beset by a plague of investment brokers, insurance salesmen, book agents, peddlers and con men. But they had an effective answer: They closed their airstrip to all but invited guests. The get-rich-quick artists found that there was just no way to get there from here. They also placed an advertisement in the Anchorage papers, signed by the council president, Albert Kaloa, Jr., which was addressed to salesmen in general, and said:
"Don't call us. We'll call you. The scalp you save may be your own."
One invited guest during this period was a writer for the New York Times, Homer Bigart, who visited the village in mid-1966 and decided that the biggest advance made by the Indians in the years since they obtained their new wealth was in the fields of health. Bigart wrote in The Times:
"Two years of affluence have had a remarkable effect on the people. There has been a sharp decline in alcoholism and a dramatic upgrading of general health. This was hardly surprising for the old village was an unsightly clutter of driftwood and tarpaper shacks, often with a dozen Indians sleeping in turns in one room.
" . . . The sudden wealth had its greatest impact on children's diet . . . Families were now able to feed their children fresh vegetables, milk, eggs and ice cream . . .
Bigart also noted the tribe's investment program which he described then as leaning heavily on Anchorage real estate, and including a half interest in two utility firms worth about $500,000. Later these investments were to include an interest in a general construction firm, part ownership of an Anchorage firm dealing in the title and trust business, the controlling interest in an Anchorage-area utilities firm, and ownership of a radio-television store in Anchorage. (This last was one of the tribe's poorer investments and the store is no longer in operation.)
But the other investments have done better, and the Tyoneks' real estateincluding several Anchorage area office buildingshas also done well. What has been described as the jewel of their investment program is the $2 million two-structure office building complex which they built near downtown Anchorage. The reason for building this structurewhich would ultimately be named the Albert S. Kaloa, Jr., Memorial Buildingwas described best by Kaloa himself at the time the project was given the go-ahead. Writing in the village newsletter, he said:
"We have budgeted the money received from the oil and gas leases carefully in order to provide for the future education of our children and to provide for housing for our people at Tyonek.
"The balance of the money we must invest to make our program self-sustaining. Otherwise, our funds will be exhausted and our people will ultimately be reduced to that degree of poverty, hardship and suffering experienced over the centuries."
Kaloa wasn't to live to see the second building in this complex started. He lost his life Sept. 12, 1966, in a hotel fire in Anchorage which claimed the lives of 13 other persons. His death cast a pall over every member of the tribe.
"Kaloa was young, smart, with a tremendous amount of common sense," McCutcheon remarked at the time. "The Tyoneks probably felt a keener sense of loss than if the death had taken place in their own family."
The construction of what was to be the Kaloa building illustrated several things in connection with the Tyoneks and their investment program. Their aim had been blue-chip investments with a return of 10 per cent and the building certainly qualified. Built by the construction firm in which the tribe had a financial interest, it cost $1 million. It is leased to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the federal agency's regional offices at an annual rental of $108,000.
This building project illustrated something else, too. Now that they were relatively rich and relatively powerful, the Tyoneks would start displaying some political muscle and pick up a few enemies in the doing. The Kaloa building went up on land given to them by an Anchorage resident for that purpose. According to the terms of the gift, the tribe had to put up an office building within a ten-year period or the land would revert back to the original owner. To do this it would be necessary for the Tyoneks to get a change in zoning: The land they were given (as well as the surrounding land owned by the same person) was zoned residential.
The Tyoneks were successful in this political battle although it took awhile and looked for a time like a miniature version of the original fight to get the oil lease rights. It was actually the second political fight for them since that time. Earlier they had attempted to get the Tyonek area taken out of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, but without success. (They seemed to have a point here, since Tyonek was across Cook Inlet from the remainder of the borough and its ties were with Anchorage rather than the peninsula.)
But neither move was without its opponents and its critics. The Anchorage Daily News, which opposed the tribe in both instances, commented editorially at the time:
" . . . Four Alaska borough chairmen have expressed concern that to do so (take Tyonek out of the Kenai Peninsula Borough) would create a permanent tax haven for future inlet area investments. And recent events certainly justify that impression.
"A few months ago the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly decided to hold firm against granting a tax exemption to a proposed major industry. Those who claim to speak for the Tyoneks offered to build the plant in Tyonek and lease it to the industry. Public ownership would make it tax free. Under this pressure, the assembly men finally granted tax concessions.
"Last month those who claim to speak for the Tyoneks threatened that if the Greater Anchorage Borough Assembly did not grant a zoning exception no Tyonek money would be seen in Anchorage for any reason. The assembly granted the exception.
"One case could be considered economic pirating; the other, economic blackmail.
"We can see no public advantage in removing the Tyonek area from the Kenai Peninsula Borough. And after recent economic experiences the danger to the public interest of setting up an autonomous economic region there seems self-evident."
This was published early in April of 1966 and it seemed to mark about the low point in the relations between the Tyoneks and some of their neighbors in Anchorage and the Kenai area. Less than two weeks later the first of a series of tragedies struck the Tyoneks and the combined shock probably went a long way toward removing accumulated bitterness from their minds and those of their neighbors.
On April 15, 1966, the Theadore Chickaluson family was due to move into one of the just-completed new houses in the village. The night before their 30-year-old log and frame home burned to the ground. Four childrengrandchildren of the old chief Simeon Chikalusonranging in age from seven to 14, were killed in the fire.
Two months later Albert S. Kaloa, Sr., father of the village president, was arrested in the gunshot slaying of a fellow villager, Gilbert Longcarp, following an argument in Kaloa's home. Kaloa eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and in October was given a suspended five-year sentence.
Then came the death of young Albert in the Lane Hotel fire.
All of the good things which had come with their new oil riches were certainly tempered by misfortune during those last months of 1966. The feeling was put simply but well in Tyonek's newsletter published that Christmas:
"We have been blessed with many good things.
"We have experienced some misfortunes.
"We can be grateful for the nice things that have happened and also grateful that we have not experienced ore misfortune than we have."
At that Christmastime work on construction in the new village was virtually complete. The new homes glowed with lights powered by the village's new gas-powered generator, fired by fuel from a well tapping the resources under the reservation.
The Tyonek airstrip had been lengthened and improved. There were new streets winding through the village, and there was a brand-new school for the Tyonek youngsters. (The school was built by the BIA at a cost of $737,000. It included four classrooms, a gymnasium-auditorium, and a paved outdoor play area and replaced a ramshackle old wooden school building.)
For the Tyoneks, 1967 was not as eventful as the previous year but there were some high spots. One came in May, when they held their second lease sale. This one was smaller and covered areas where bids had been rejected at the earlier sale. It brought in only $2.7 millionsomewhat less than had been expectedbut still more than the $1.4 million which had been offered for the same lands at the 1964 sale.
The other major event of the year was start of work on the second structure in its office building complexa twin to the Kaloa Building. Due for completion this coming August, the exact copy of the existing two-story office building also will offer 24,000 square feet of rental office space. Its cost is expected to be pared to $750.000 from the $1 million cost of the first building due to experience gained in constructing the first building.
This spring, with final work going ahead on this new office building, the Tyoneks were also busy with other projects. Many of the members of the tribe were working on construction of roads in the village area and also at the power plant where the eventual plan is to sell surplus power generated to production installations of oil companies on that side of the inlet. Their investments were also doing well. It was reported as of the beginning of this year that they now had approximately half of their total $14.5 million from the two oil sales invested in businesses in the Anchorage area which were bringing in an average annual return of 10 per cent.
While that offer back in the spring of 1966 to provide a new home for the New York Stock Exchange may have been just a jest, the Tyoneks have become quite successful financiers on their own and in their own area. All in all, with the aid of the funds provided by the oil leases, they have come an immense distance since those days just a few years ago when they were near starvation and there seemed no hope at all for the future. It will be interesting to see what developments there will still be to come in what now is their bright, new future.