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View Diary: Indians 101: Reservation Poverty (191 comments)

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  •  This will probably sound (9+ / 0-)

    kind of bad, but I am glad to see that reservations and tribes other than the Sioux are mentioned here.  Too often, other tribes are ignored by everybody because the focus on the Sioux is almost all encompassing in the media and therefore by most of the country.

    There is no one answer to the problems of poverty on the reservation. And too often liberals and tribes are on opposite sides of environmental issues. Some tribes are willing to allow industries that are not particularly environmentally  friendly because of this extreme poverty.

    In Alaska there is a huge conflict between the U.S. government and my tribe over land selection. As a part of the Alaska Native land claims settlement we were supposed to be able to reclaim some of our lands.
     Below is a letter that explains a part of the problem.

    I really hope people will take time to read the following:

    Sealaska is appalled by organizations that are using biased and misleading statements and rely upon flawed scientific data to oppose finalizing land conveyances mandated under federal law.

    Among the organizations are 300 scientists from universities and organizations, who make false assertions about Sealaska and its mission. All have refused to discuss concerns directly with Sealaska.

    Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr. sent an open letter to comments and communications from leading environmental organizations

    The Tongass National Forest is the tribal homeland of the 21,000 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian who own Sealaska. 

    Sealaska is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The ANCSA Regional Corporation is the invention of Congress and is the central tool to sustain our tribes’ economic sovereignty. Congress could have transferred all of the Alaska Native land back to Alaska Native tribes in trust, but it decided to innovate and cast this vast socio-economic experiment on Alaska Native people, known as ANCSA. Congress created an untidy division of labor for Alaska Natives wherein the ANCSA regional and village corporations were to develop sustainable economies for Alaska Natives as a central part of a land claims settlement and left the Alaska Native federally recognized tribes in place to meet the governance needs of Alaska Natives. The Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian of Southeast Alaska remain the most populous in Alaska, but, under ANCSA, Sealaska has a right to less than one-half of one percent of the 17 million acre Tongass National Forest. It remains fundamentally a very unfair land settlement for our people.

    The Tongass was taken by the United States in 1907 to create the Tongass National Forest, which is simply a euphemistic way of saying that our land was stolen. There was no consideration of any kind given for this theft. The U.S. Supreme Court in one of the worst tribal cases in U.S. history concluded that Tlingit had no 5th Amendment rights and did not have to be paid anything.  In fact, the case indicated that the United States had such discretion to take without compensation to Indian people but that it could pay a ‘gratuity’ if it wanted. From the standpoint of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, a gratuity is ultimately what the U.S. paid for taking 24 million acres. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, passed by Congress in 1971, provided a tiny measure of justice to Alaska Natives.

    But 41 years later the United States has yet to restore to Sealaska the lands promised in the settlement act.

    Today, environmentalists are objecting to the transfer of U.S. Forest Service lands to a for-profit corporation, but Sealaska is not the kind of corporation that is being suggested. Through ANCSA, Sealaska was assigned to receive the land, and to promote the economic well-being and cultural vitality of Southeast Alaska’s First Peoples.  

    In 1976, under an amendment to ANCSA, Sealaska was directed by Congress to select land from within specific areas (Native land selection “withdrawal boxes”) drawn around some Native villages in Southeast Alaska. These selection restrictions were unique to Southeast Alaska and came from the then powerful timber lobby, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, which worked for decades to oppose the return of any land to Southeast Alaska Natives.

    Through the current legislation before Congress, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement and Jobs Finalization Act, Sealaska prioritized lands outside the withdrawal boxes, which would result in 40,000 fewer acres of old growth that will be harvested. It also:

        Provides selections that are less environmentally sensitive than the lands currently available to Sealaska
        Results in fewer lands that would require us to build roads into sensitive watersheds, an action contrary to our principles and values as Native peoples
        Ensures that tens of thousands of acres in roadless, pristine, old growth forest stay that way

    Sealaska is perplexed by the insensitivity of the environmental organizations to the economic plight and historic treatment of Southeast Alaska’s Native peoples. Conservation organizations are reacting to conservation issues without any understanding, much less empathy for the consequences to Native peoples who live in and depend on the forest for their livelihoods and their quality of life.    

    Sealaska has worked closely with all of Southeast Alaska to create equitable and fair legislation.  

    During our public process, Sealaska:

        Held 250 community meetings in Southeast Alaska
        Agreed to unprecedented public access to these lands once they are transferred
        Obtained support from more than 120 Southeast Alaska business owners
        Received letters of support from 34 tribes in Southeast Alaska and in the Lower 48
        Established protections for lands with significant spiritual, cultural and sacred values to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples

    The Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement and Jobs Finalization Act is primarily about the fulfillment of two federal Indian policies: self-determination and the settlement of Alaska Native land claims.

    This small portion of our ancestral lands will serve the economic and social needs of Alaska Native communities, while offering greater conservation protections for ecologically valuable lands within the Tongass.

    We only wish you would join us to implore Congress to make right a promise made to our people 41 years ago. We have done all in our power over the last two years to create a bill that balances the needs of our Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples with those of others in our region. These are the lands that have sustained us for thousands of years and will do so for generations to come.


    Chris E. McNeil Jr.

    President and CEO

    Environmentalists need to keep in mind the economic conditions of Native peoples before condemning them for wanting to develop their some of their lands.  It often seems like Native Americans are supposed to bear the costs of non-development regardless of the needs of the Native people.


    by jennybravo on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 11:41:51 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

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