The following are public statements provided at hearings held in Fairbanks and Anchorage the 17th and 18th of October 1969 prior to the passage of ANCSA. They provide the reader with some of the issues and concerns discussed prior to the passage of ANCSA.
STATEMENT OF ALFRED KETZLER, PRESIDENT, TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE, NENANA, ALASKA (written)
My name is Alfred Ketzler. I was born and raised in Nenana, Alaska. I am president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. First, I would like to tell about the Tanana Chiefs Conference.
The Conference was organized in 1962, shortly after statehood and long before the discovery of oil. A number of people in Fairbanks and Nenana got together and discussed the sure and gradual loss of the Native land around the homes of people present at the meeting.
We asked ourselves: Was this the same all over Alaska? We had no way of knowing. We then decided to call a meeting of villages at Nenana. The Nenana Native Council had dog races and a potlatch scheduled for early March.
In mid-February, we wrote a letter of invitation to 30 villages in Interior Alaska. Of these, 10 responded to the meeting which was held in early March.
At this meeting, we found the land problems to be similar in all the villages. It was decided that we would hold a meeting at Tanana and we would invite all villages to attend. At Tanana, where the Tanana and Yukon Rivers meet, Athabascan Indian chiefs traditionally met.
The Nuchulayya, meaning both the location and the meeting, was the seat of government for all the Interior Athabascan tribes.
We decided to revive the meetings and called the Tanana conference for late June of 1962.
Thirty villages responded to our invitation. At that time, I stated that main motive for the meeting was the land problems. Other topics under discussion included hunting, trapping, and fishing rights, as well as educational needs.
Each village attending the meeting was represented by the village chief or a representative appointed by him. A name, Dena Nena Henash, was selected. The Interior Athabascan Indians were once again joined into one central organization.
The name of the organization has since been anglicized, now being called the Tanana Chiefs Conference. When the Conference was formed, there was yet no statewide organization which would represent all the Alaska Native Peoples.
Four years passed by. Other regional associations were formed. As greater challenges were made to Native owned lands and subsistence rights held by Natives, the need also grew for a statewide organization.
This need was fulfilled with the organization of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966, with which we are affiliated and through which we seek a settlement of our Native land claim.
The Tanana Chiefs Conference supports legislation proposed and authored by the AFN and their counsel.
We support all proposals included in the A.F.N. legislation: $500 million as compensation for lands lost prior to the enactment of the bill, 40 million acres in fee title, and retention of a two percent overriding royalty, and the creation of Native owned and Native operated development corporations as specified in the A.F.N. legislation.
Although we support the proposals, we believe that our claims do not ask for the full measure of what we deserve. When Alaska Natives first began to push the claims, we thought that the figure of 80 million acres was not enough land to support our people. Should we have asked for as much land as each village historically used and occupied, the figure would have vastly exceeded 80 millions of acres. When we began to discuss the 80 million acre figure, representatives of the Interior Department and the State of Alaska said that such a claim would be unacceptable; we compromised at 40 millions of acres. The attachment of the Native people to the land is so great that they would reject any of their leaders who attempted to compromise further.
Native people have been told that we do not have a title, a piece of paper which asserts our ownership to our lands.
We believe our ownership and our ties to our land far exceeds any deed. We never did need any document to tell us the land is ours. This we have always known.
It is true that we have fished, and hunted, and harvested our livelihoods from the land, as did countless generations of our people before us. This, with our instinctive feeling of ownership, tells us that the land belongs to us.
We need the land for other reasons, too. We would like to establish a very long-term economic base with our land. It is our belief that we must receive the amount of land which we request so that we may retain a share of the benefits from our land.
It is our belief; also, that we should receive a fair land settlement, so that what we receive will be equal to the true value of the land with respect to future development. In this way, we hope to insure a permanent settlement.
This is also why we ask for the two per cent overriding royalty. Our ancestors maintained a share in the land; we now claim a share to the land; we want our children and their children after them to retain a share in the land.
This we feel can be done if we receive a 2 per cent overriding royalty.
Should you render justice to the Alaska Native, in granting us the full amount of money, the full amount of land, and the overriding royalty, you must also allow us self-determination in managing our settlement.
We present our case to the Congress of the United States so that we might avoid the legal entanglements involved in going before the courts. To further avoid entanglements and the complications of federal bureaucracies, the administrative pattern of the settlement must be developed by Natives.
The major property interests must be held by Natives, and not by state or federal agencies. Those who are the owners must have the greatest say. The royalty benefits must be spread widely, but with full regard to private property concepts.
The legislation which we have authored and proposed through the AFN is designed to utilize modern corporate forms, so that we will be able to compete along with anybody else in a capitalistic society.
Among the most important aspects of our bill are the safeguards which are therein provided. The Alaska Native Commission is such an example.
You have heard others than myself who have told you of how our people used and occupied more land than that which we request. I hope that you can now understand, that even by the most conservative estimates, we request only from five to ten percent of the true worth of our claim.
Please give the matter of our claim the most serious consideration. It is the final opportunity for justice - both for the Nation and for our people.
Thank you for the opportunity to present you with this statement.
Source: Alaska Native Land Claims Part II, "Hearings before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-first Congress First Session on H.R. 13142, H.R. 10193, and H.R. 14212, Bills to Provide for the Settlement of Certain Land Claims of Alaska Natives, and for Other Purposes. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970.