Kasaan Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Sealaska
MOA will serve as a model for co-management with other tribes
JUNEAU, Alaska — The first memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Sealaska Corporation and a Southeast Alaska recognized tribal organization for the management of sacred sites on Sealaska land was signed. The MOA is an agreement between Sealaska, Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK). Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh, SHI President Rosita Worl and OVK Tribal President Richard Peterson signed the agreement.
The MOA defines the cooperative management for Native historical and cultural properties that have been conveyed to Sealaska through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and are within the aboriginal territory of Kasaan Haida people on Prince of Wales Island.
ANCSA is the only means by which title to these culturally significant, aborginal properties can be returned to Native ownership.
“I think its important to not only mention that these are our ancestral homes but we still utilize these areas today, we are still our own people,” said Peterson.
Transfer of some of these cultural properties to Native ownership was one of the basic tenets of ANCSA and was included in the act under Section 14(h)(h)(1), which allows transfer of select
Native cultural, sacred and historic sites from the federal government to the regional Native corporations. Since 1975 Sealaska has been engaged in an extremely long process for transfer of these properties from the federal government. Sealaska has received 84 sites and there are still four pending final conveyance.
The ownership of these sites is important for Native people of SE Alaska to preserve their culture, stories and to respect their ancestors. Ownership by Natives and management by Native people is critical to achieve these objectives. “We know we need to identify sacred sites in Southeast to better protect the sites,” said Worl. “Our ancestors did not want to identify where sacred sites were because they were fearful that people would desecrate them.”
“We’ve seen people not respecting where our grandfathers and grandmothers were buried,” said Kookesh. “The only choice we had as a corporation was to select those sites in order to protect them. Signing the MOA is a historic moment for Sealaska because it shows a growing tradition of working with Southeast tribes.”
This agreement is the first of many that Sealaska intends to enter with Southeast tribes. It demonstrates a commitment by Sealaska to increase communication and collaboration with Southeast tribes.
“This is an important day for Kasaan,” said Peterson. “I think it's a day that signifies that one of the smallest tribes in Southeast is seen as an equal by Sealaska. Sealaska recognizes that Kasaan can care for our lands and care for ancestral homes.”
“I think it’s significant to note that some people may want to divide tribes and our corporations,” Peterson continued. “Today is a testimony to the fact that we can work together and there is more that unites us than divides us.”
The purpose of the MOA is to establish a collaborative relationship for the exchange of technical expertise and knowledge in common areas of interest and concern. It also provides the framework for preservation and management of cemetery sites, historic places, sacred sites and archaeological sites.
Sealaska, a Growing Tradition
Sealaska has strengthened business with culture since 1972. We are a Native corporation owned by more than 21,000 tribal member shareholders and guided by our traditions of environmental stewardship and positively impacting our communities. Learn more at www.sealaska.com