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.


Mr. Chairman, my name is Eben Hopson. I am second Vice President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Executive Director of the Arctic Slope Native Assoc., a member of the City Council of Barrow, President of the Barvets Corp. Inc., Secretary to the Barrow Utilities Inc., Board of Directors, I have been ten years in the Alaska legislature, having served my first two years in the Last Territorial legislature, I am also on the steering Committee of the AFN, a Captain in the Alaska National Guard, and a three and a half year veteran of the second world war.

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 Pt. 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 2 petroleum reserve number four you didnít do anything until 1945.

Mr. Chairman, when we were in Washington four 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 four thousand Eskimos made our living. You can see that we had to travel many times a hundred 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 3 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 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 Sec. 4 of the Statehood Act says:

"The State and its people do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all 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 one month and a half ago the State leased some of our lands. It did not have title to one square inch of it.

Attached to my statement is a news clipping where the Governor says high on high priority is the reduction of taxes. When you read this clipping you will see that there is not one single word about paying the Natives and I say, Shame on the State.

Mr. Chairman, the Governor testified before you gentlemen just two months ago. Essentially his position is that we should get some surface rights and the Federal Government should foot the bill, that is the Federal Government, or the U.S. taxpayers should dig up the money. The Alaska Federation of Natives has met three formal times with the State. I must say that the Stateís position has been consistent - to keep everything for itself and request the Federal Government to pay. Its attitude can be illustrated this way; South of the Brooks Range is the Chandalar Reservation containing 1.4 million acres. When it was created, I am informed the Department of Interior studied the area needed to support those people and so the size of the Reservation was agreed upon. Mineral rights were Included. The State wants the land claims legislation to abolish all Indian reservations (except Tyonek and Metlakatla). The Secretary of State Robert Ward and Attorney General Kent Edwards told us why during our negotiations.

The reason is: The State wants to make selections of land on that area. How greedy can anyone be?

Mr. Chairman, our view of achieving a settlement is that the State of Alaska should have an agreement with us, and that we should have a common program together. Our belief is that the State and the Native people of Alaska together should approach the Congress, therefore enhancing the passage of the bill. The tragedy of our inability to agree is that there are enough for everyone here.

The Eskimos on the Arctic Slope are always willing to share. We always have been, and this is the key to our survival in the North.

People forget sometimes that in the Fall of 1966 we sued the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Alaska. This was a case we started all on our own, and without lawyers. The Department of Interior was about to withdraw 4.5 million acres in our Pt. Hope area. I am filing a copy of our pleadings with you.

Mr. Udall receded from his proposed actions and instead imposed his "Freeze" program and so we dismissed the case. But the point is WE CAN FIGHT, in the old days by war and now through your courts. Our basic attitude is that you folks have the power. But we also have the belief that it will be pretty hard for you to go back to your own voters and the rest of the Congress and tell them that they must dig up 500 million dollars, when everyone knows that the State of Alaska has already 900 million dollars in the bank it received from bonuses only, not to mention the royalties that are coming later.

The judgment of the Arctic Slope Native Association is that the stubborn, greedy, dog in the manger attitude simply cannot be tolerated. It is hurtful to a settlement. It must be condemned and we do condemn it. The State must recede. The point is however, how to make it.

After three years of patience, after three years of essentially no cooperation from the State, aside from asking us to recede and recede and back down, we have now lost our patience.

We have ordered our attorneys, Frederick Paul as chief counsel and his associates Davis, Wright, Todd, Riese and Jones to take whatever legal action is necessary to prevent the Stateís spending one cent of the 900 million dollars principal or interest. Presently, they are concentrating on a suit against the Bank of America in San Francisco on the theory that the bank has money belonging to us, and we want it.

Mr. Chairman, we are anxious to try this case. We know we can win it. We have not yet authorized a suit against the oil companies, because we recognize that according to your way of life we must have progress. But we are studying the oil companies too, because they have not put any of their considerable power behind us and we are disturbed. This case can wait however. We want you to know that we still acknowledge your power.

We want you to know that we are not withdrawing from the Federation, and that we are devoted to a total solution, and that this is not a divisive action.

In our fight for our land all the regions have been deprived of hiring a lawyer who can get an approved attorneyís contract. In part this is the fault of Congress for requiring approval. In part it is caused by the Department of the Interior. I am filing a copy of the latest disapproval.

We think in the America of today it is an outrage that one cannot hire a lawyer. We understand that our lawyer can represent us, It is just that he cannot be paid.

Now, Mr. Chairman, may I say a word about the size of the settlement. First of all, this is our land, and we wish that your society had never came and, now that you are here, that you would leave, that you would get out.

But, your civilization is here.

Mr. Chairman, the Governor of Alaska told you:

"The Congress has established a fair and honorable record in the Indian settlements with the Indians in the lower 48 and the aim of my testimony is to secure that same treatment for the Alaska Natives."

How Ghastly!

The truth of the matter is as the Federation lawyer, Mr. Clark put it to you:

"Resolution of the Native Alaskan peoples claim to the vast North lands that largely remain their home, will be the last chapter in the long sad history. Our Nation seized much of an immensely wealthy continent displacing, decimating, subjugating and segregating aboriginal tribes."

Mr. Clark told the truth and we will have no part of the Governors solution. What Mr. Clark said about the depravity of some of your society is happening here. I am filing with your committee a recent handbill given out by our local theater. Are you proud of it? Concern has been shown by some about our ability to handle money and land. Let me assure you that we can sign leases just as easily as the Commissioner of Natural Resources Thomas Kelly.

Our information is that the State had little if any seismological studies on the area recently leased. We do know it has no oil economist, no oil lawyer and no constitutional lawyer.

Contrast that conduct with that of the Federation. We went out and hired competence, Mr. Justice Goldberg, General Clark, Mr. Clark, as you know was Assistant Attorney General of the United States in charge of Public Lands for four years.

Who if you please, is the better manager, the State or the Natives?

And so, there you have it, Mr. Chairman, this is our land. If you want it, pay fair value for it. While we deny that our need or our competence are relevant factors to judge the amounts of land and money or both, our need is great and our competence is amply adequate for a reasonable - soon full control of our own compensation.

May God be with you in your deliberations.

Eben Hopson,
Executive Director, Arctic Slope Native Association.
Arctic Slope Native Association, Barrow, Alaska




Initially, as any organization emerges as a recognized entity, there is a background under which it began organization. It must Ďbe understood that in the early days of statehood for the State of Alaska, concerted efforts were made by it to select lands granted by the United States Congress. In the exercise of this procedure under the Statehood Act the State went to all corners of its boundaries seeking lands for itís own.

It must also be remembered that at the time Alaska was purchased from Russia, a clause in that document conveying the territory from Russia to the United States, states in part, that the Congress reserved to itself the authority to settle the rights of the Native people of Alaska, and again in the Statehood Act itself that any selection of land by the State is subject to any valid existing rights including those of the Natives of Alaska until the Congress acts to settle the rights theretofore dormant for the last ninety one years.

Under the two documents purporting to protect the rights of the Native people, we as Natives, felt assured that no one, not certainly our own State, would step all over us in the process of their selection. In the midst of the quiet operation of the State, and I am not exactly sure that all selections were made with proper notification, we became aware of where the selections were being made. Periodically, screams of "trespass" Ďand you are "taking our land" were voiced from different quarters of the State. However, all screams fell on deaf ears and the selections continued and progressed without even once stopping to see who they were stepping on.

Quite suddenly then, we realized that unless we officially file protests of the selections on what we considered as "our land" nothing was going to stop. While our filing of the protests did not in themselves stop all selections, the interpretation of our pretests in some departments began to take effects. It slowed down the approval or the actions necessary to grant title to applicants.

It must be emphasized here that many individuals, attorneys as well as out-spoken laymen, sympathetic to our claims took an unpopular stand in support of them and until that time we were at the mercy of the aggressiveness of the State in itís selections ignoring squatters in some cases, villages in others, and actual land claims by the regional associations.

2. Regionals and land claims

Thus the Regional associations began playing a real part in the whole Land Claims to itís present status as, the organizations comprising the Alaska Federation of Natives itself, Without the Regional associations we have no AFN.

With the exception of a few villages in isolated cases where claims were filed for reasons other than land claims, all land claims were filed by the regional associations. The desire to form a single Statewide native organization and the actual formation of it stems, began in order to give the whole movement a strong and single voice with the hope of gaining stature to attain Congressional recognition, and this, it has most effectively gained.

A simple example in the case of the Arctic Slope Native Association is very much in order. It would have been a futile effort if Barrow alone were to have filed a claim of the North Slope. Wainwright village could not have had more effect if it had done so on its own. Likewise with Pt. Hope, Barter Island and Anuktukvik Pass because we could not have, without incurring much time and money that we didnít have, to arrive at reasonable boundaries of our claims by villages.

Referring back to history which was testified to by Mr. Alfred Hopson, Mr.

Simon Paneak and myself with others, a great trade movement involved travel from Pt. Hope to the Canadian border, and westward from Barter Island through Barrow to Pt. Houe. All of the region on the North Slope has been used and occupied by time Eskimo people.

The feeling of relationship of the people to itís land has been shared since time immemorial. Here is truly an ethnic group, sharing among others, the very pattern of life so identical, speaking time same dialect. hunting the same species of animals, having time same frame of mind, progressive, loving and God fearing.

In the application of procedures set out in S1830 proposing a single Statewide corporation to administer the judgment funds and land, there is no assurance that Barrow would receive adequate attention to itís programs and needs for assistance. Likewise and moreso with Pt. Hope and other villages in the North Slope. While Barrow tends to be more reliant on itís own representation, the other villages within the region on the other hand tend to rely on the leadership of Barrow. So then, the only sure way our neighbors feel they can receive adequate attention for their needs is to work through the regional headquarters in Barrow.

In going over the needed programs for Wainwright, let us assume as an example that a ten Point program was submitted to the Statewide corporation. Let us also assume that the other two hundred villages submitted ten point programs and take into consideration that the nine man board would attempt to screen these programs, with no assurance that the regional associations would be represented, much less the important villages who are actually the back bone of the Statewide organization. Who can tell me that of the two thousand requests for assistance Barrow might receive some attention on the first go round, or maybe the second, perhaps the third, or if you really want to be fair about this weíll consider Barrow at our next session. This is the situation we are facing.

Unless we adopt some procedure whereby all local applicants can be screened at the regional level, and present them by regions, there is no hope that we can give adequate attention to our local people.

The actual procedure then would be:

1. Each village would make program proposals to their regional headquarters.

2. The regionals, having representation from villages within it, makes deletions, additions to local needs, and approve and disapprove.

3. Having recommendations from all the villages in the region then come up with a package of proposals for proper presentation to time Statewide corporation.

4, The regional then having the delegated authority to negotiate, sit down as a statewide corporation and bargain in hopes of gaining approval.

5 The regional then come back from a statewide session and hand to the locals all the programs approved and complete the whole process.

3. Analysis

It relieves the statewide nine man board from dealing with all two hundred and twenty five villages which is desirable.

There is no other way the villages want to operate anyway, if It were so, we would have had two hundred and twenty five separate land claims. The utilization of the regional concept has been used in the effective organization of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

To do otherwise would be disastrous because no one would know where to start from and as many as five years could be lost in the proper administration of any judgment funds and land.

I might add in conclusion, that contrary to a Department of lnterior report saying in effect that it is not necessary to have a majority of Native people on the statewide board, I feel very strongly that the natives should have majority on the boards. A mixed composition is however desirable because it would tend to give a check and balance while not materially effecting the wishes of the Natives. The same holds true in any democratic government and I need not go into that extensively.

It is also my hope that the membership in the statewide organization as is in S-1830 would be enlarged as to reflect representative from each regional corporations.

Thus concludes my personal thoughts on the need for the regional corporations.

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.

Public statements provided at hearings held in Fairbanks and Anchorage the 17th and 18th of October 1969 prior to the passage of ANCSA.

Article by Eben Hopson, Mayor, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska entitled "InupiaQ Education" appeared in Cross-Cultural Issues in Alaskan Education, 1977.

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