Murkowski, Sullivan Introduce Landless Legislation to Rectify 50-Year Injustice
Provides Lands and Rights Under ANCSA for Five Southeast Communities
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, introduced updated legislation to allow the Alaska Native communities of Haines, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Tenakee to form urban corporations and receive land entitlements under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The five Southeast communities were not included in ANCSA, which divided 44 million acres of land among more than 200 regional, village, and urban corporations to resolve land claims throughout Alaska, when it became law in 1971.
The legislation, the Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act, aims to rectify that injustice by amending ANCSA to provide each community with the opportunities it granted to other Native communities 50 years ago: the right to form an Alaska Native Urban Corporation and receive 23,040 acres, or one township, of federal land.
“The culture and heritage of Alaska Native peoples is intricately tied to the land on which they live. The unique regions they have inhabited for centuries are directly connected to their identity,” said Senator Murkowski. “Unfortunately, five communities were not afforded the same benefits under ANCSA – access to land – that were granted to others throughout Southeast. It is past time the federal government make good on its promises to each of the communities that were left out of this significant agreement. I’m proud to work with Senator Sullivan, Congressman Young, and local stakeholders to correct this decades-long wrongdoing and provide equity to these landless communities.”
“For years, Alaska Native residents in five southeast communities have been denied the land and opportunities afforded by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, a historic injustice that Congress has a duty to rectify. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the passage of ANCSA, I am hopeful my colleagues will recognize the federal laws and circumstances that uniquely impact Alaska and join Senator Murkowski and me in quickly advancing our legislation for the benefit of our constituents,” said Senator Sullivan.
“This legislation is a testimony to perseverance and hard work and having an Alaskan delegation who not only listened but took up the shield and said to all five communities. They not only would tell us it was a terrible wrong but along with their hard working staffs, would help to end this inequity to the five communities. The Ketchikan Indian shareholders all want to thank Lisa Murkowski for her steadfast support all these years when it would have been just as easy to feign support and never bring this bill forward. Senator Murkowski, instead, always said let’s get this bill done so we can introduce it and right this wrong. That conviction is admirable and because of her and the other Alaskan delegation support, this historic bill has been introduced,” said Randy Williams, Tribal Administrator of the Tribal Council of Ketchikan Indian Community.
U.S. Congressman Don Young (R-AK) previously introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation is the result of extensive and ongoing outreach to stakeholders in Southeast Alaska. It identifies specific parcels of land that would be conveyed to the new urban corporations, which are depicted on official maps produced by the U.S. Forest Service. The legislation also includes provisions to protect existing rights-of-way and many existing uses of those lands and to ensure that reasonable public access can continue.
In November 2020, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Young introduced their original landless legislation, upon which today’s newly introduced bill was built.
Following introduction, during an Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining (PLFM) legislative hearing, Senator Murkowski raised her bill, S. 4889, the ANCSA Fulfillment Act, a package which aimed to resolve a number of outstanding issues related to the landmark 1971 law, including authorizing the five landless communities in southeast Alaska to form urban corporations and receive lands. Senator Sullivan was also a cosponsor of S. 4889.
Earlier this year, staff from the Alaska Congressional delegation traveled throughout southeast Alaska to hold community meetings and to discuss the legislation with impacted stakeholders. Feedback from those meetings was critical in developing this text.