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Sealaska Starts 2013 Timber Harvest Program with Ceremony


First Tree Ceremony

PHOTO: Courtesy of Sealaska

Timber program provides benefits across the region and state

JUNEAU, Alaska – Sealaska’s land management programs provide benefits to tribal member shareholders and vital economic stimulation to Southeast communities. On April 13, 2013, Sealaska’s annual First Tree Ceremony, similar to “Blessing of the Fleet,” was held to start the 2013 timber program. The event was held on Prince of Wales Island near Big Salt, just north of Klawock.

“The First Tree Ceremony is Sealaska’s acknowledgment of the beliefs and practices of our ancestors,” said Sealaska Board Vice Chair Rosita Worl. “To live in an area for at least 10,000 years means we had culture, values and a worldview to sustain us as a people. We both revered and utilized the land. We are fortunate to continue to live on our indigenous lands and that we still own our land.” 

“We make that same commitment as our ancestors so that our descendants will have access to the same resources,” said Worl.  “The Tongass is a place that Natives have lived and held sacred for generations.”

Sealaska’s timber program is dependent on finalizing acreage due under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Benefits from Sealaska’s timber program include jobs, community infrastructure, ANCSA Section 7(i) revenue sharing payments, scholarships and distributions to tribal member shareholders. Passage of this federal legislation is crucial to Sealaska’s goal of achieving economic sustainability in our communities.

“We would like to thank Sealaska for having the ceremony on Prince of Wales Island,” said Leslie Isaacs, city administrator for the City of Klawock. “The support we get from Sealaska on Prince of Wales Island for community projects is immense and we thank you for that.” 

Since inception Sealaska has made approximately $317 million in payments to ANCSA Section 7(i) according to Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh. “All of Sealaska’s Section 7(i) payments have been derived from timber related activities on about 80,000 acres,” he said. “One amendment to ANCSA agreed to by the regional corporations is their ability to deduct up to $250,000 for the purpose of scholarships prior to making their Section 7(i) payment. This has made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of shareholders and their descendants.”

Sealaska scholarship recipient Teahonna James received scholarships for five years while attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. She says the scholarships made it possible for her to attend and afford college. “Although Fort Lewis provides free tuition to Native students, the scholarships from Sealaska and other Native institutions have helped me reduce college debt for other college expenses.” James graduated in 2011 with a degree in Native studies.

Sealaska, Values In Action
Sealaska has strengthened business with culture since 1972. We are a Native institution owned by more than 21,000 tribal member shareholders whose core cultural values guide all that Sealaska does and represent the rich heritage of our Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. We live our values to build excellence in our Native enterprise and take action towards our purpose: to strengthen our people, culture and homelands.

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