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 EBEN HOPSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARCTIC SLOPE NATIVE ASSOCIATION (SPOKEN)
I am going to begin with the second paragraph of my written statement. I will start reading and hope I make it in about 5 minutes.
Mr. Chairman, you have heard our witnesses. This is our land, from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean and from Canada to the Native village of Point Hope. It has been just a few years ago when you white people started coming in to stay. Even for the exploration of oil within the petroleum reserve No. 4 you didnít do anything until 1945.
Mr. Chairman, when we were in Washington 4 months ago you asked us to answer a number of questions, one of these related to "unproven aboriginal title". In the first instance, the words "unproven aboriginal title" is a misconception. There is no such a thing as "unproven aboriginal title." The mere fact that you say "aboriginal" implies that someone was there before you were. So we were offended by the use of that phrase. Perhaps they are not proven to you, but that is because you do not know us. These claims are proven, just look at these barren lands out of which we 4,000 Eskimos made our living. You can see that we had to travel many times 100 miles to our various hunting camps. We occupied the whole 55 million acres on the North Slope.
Our lawyers tell us that the key word in your language and we agree is we had dominion over it. My words are that if a non-Eskimo invaded our land, there was war. Some of our critics say that mineral rights should not be included in our concept of ownership.
We can tell you now that the Arctic Slope Eskimos used the oil seepage for fuel for generations, and the moss was our wick for the oil lamp.
The Federal Field Committee confirmed this usage in its report, that wonderful book called "The Natives and the Land." But letís look at it from your standards. Your courts enforce your moral and legal standards. The Tlingit and Haida case just a year and a half ago said, in valuing Indian title lands:
Proper consideration must be given to the natural resources of the land, including its climate, vegetables, including timber, game and wildlife, mineral resources and whether they are of economic value at the time of (taking) or merely of potential value.
Mr. Chairman, we have great confidence in the United States, its Congress, and its people. We rely on you to observe a similar rule that the Tlingit and Haida case told us:
Ownership by Indian title, although merely a possessory right of use and occupancy and, therefore, less than the fee-simple ownership, is the complete beneficial ownership based on the right of perpetual use and occupancy.
Some of the our critics also say that we should be paid according to their idea of our type of use and again the Tlingit and Haida case told us:
The value of land held by Indian Title is the same as that held in fee simple and not the value to the primitive occupants relying on it for subsistence.
Finally the Federal Field Committee advised the world that the "Alaska Natives have a substantial claim to all the lands in Alaska by virtue of aboriginal occupancy."
Mr. Chairman, we were most disappointed in Governor Millerís statement to you in August. He said:
I am charged with the obligation to defend the State Constitution and the Statehood Act.
This is fine. I wish he would. But his statement really is, I will defend all of the land grants and forget the balance of the Constitution and the Statehood Act. He forgets that section 4 of the Statehood Act says:
The State and its people do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all the right and title to any lands or other property the right and title to which may be held by any Indian Eskimo or Aleut or is held by the United States in trust for such Natives (which) shall be and remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the United States until disposed of under its authority.
Mr. Chairman, the Governor is violating this promise. Just 11/2 months ago the State leased some of our lands. It did not have title to 1 square inch of it.
(The statement of Eben Hopson, together with the petition for injunction, are as follows:)
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.
Article by Eben Hopson, Mayor, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska entitled "InupiaQ Education" appeared in Cross-Cultural Issues in Alaskan Education, 1977.