ANCSA’s 50th anniversary cause for celebration of visionary Alaska Native leaders

On Dec. 18, 1971, the monumental Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The federal legislation was the culmination of staunch advocacy for Indigenous land claims by Alaska Native luminaries such as Marlene Johnson, Flore Lekanof, Willie Hensley, Roy Huhndorf and Emil Notti who formed the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966.

The legislation resulted in approximately 44 million acres of land and over $962 million transferred from the federal government to 12 Alaska Native regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations. It is the largest Indigenous land claims settlement in U.S. history. It also helped pave the way for the development of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, providing critical infrastructure for Alaska’s economy.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of ANCSA, the endeavor to empower Alaska Native people through the formation of for-profit corporations has been largely successful.

As several Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) have grown into billion-dollar companies, nearly all Alaskans have benefited in some form or fashion from the diverse economic opportunities provided by ANCs. Each regional and village corporation includes subsidiaries that employ thousands of Alaskans in industries such as energy, construction, government contracting, hospitality/tourism and real estate. ANCs generate $14-$16 billion in revenue each year, which has resulted in billions of dollars returning to Alaska for investments and Alaska Native shareholder support. ANCs also help fund vital community infrastructure development throughout Alaska.

Not only did ANCSA generate vital economic development in Alaska, it also helped drive cultural revitalization and self-determination through the funding of education foundations and scholarship programs, internships, career training, culture camps, language programs, social services, and more.

As we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, there is no doubt that Alaska Native regional and village corporations will continue to have profound cultural, social and economic impact on Alaskans. We all owe it to the visionary Alaskans who helped craft the ANCSA legislation and today’s ANC leaders who carry on their legacy to preserve and perpetuate Alaska Native cultures.

On behalf of all of us at Wells Fargo in Alaska, here’s to celebrating the 50th anniversary of ANCSA!

Joe Everhart is a 30-year Alaskan and Wells Fargo’s Alaska Commercial Banking market executive. He can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
12/08/2021 - 7:57am