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The Yakama Nation Joins 7 Washington Tribes in Supporting Finalization of Alaska Native Corporation’s Land Entitlement

Toppenish, Wash. --- Last week, the Yakama Nation Tribal Council unanimously voted to support the passage of Sealaska’s land legislation, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act (S. 730 and H.R. 1408). The Nation has sent a letter of support to members of the Washington state congressional delegation. Other Washington tribal supporters include Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Lummi Nation, Skokomish Indian Tribe, Suquamish Tribe and Quileute Nation.

Yakama’s Chairman Harry Smiskin stated in the December 6 letter to Congress, “As Native peoples, we have sacred and spiritual ties to our ancestral homelands and nothing has been more harmful to our cultures and communities than the unjust and illegal appropriation of our lands. The Yakama Nation believes strongly that promises made by the U.S. government to Native peoples must be kept.”

The legislation would convey up to 85,000 acres to Sealaska Corporation, consistent with the intent of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. Sealaska is an Alaska Native Corporation based in Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to protect and promote the economic well-being and cultural vitality of its Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribal member shareholders.

The Senate version of the legislation awaits markup in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. As a high-ranking member of that committee, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has significant influence over the outcome of the legislation.

“The outpouring of support from Indian tribes, like the Yakama Nation, is tremendous, especially as the legislation heads to a Senate markup hearing,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil, Jr. “Sealaska has sought return of its lands for 40 years and in the 10 years in which we have sought legislative resolution for the return of our lands, we have made the most progress in this Congress because of the support from our friends across Indian Country.”

When announcing their decision to support Sealaska’s legislation, members of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council recalled the historic relationship between the Nation and the Alaska Native people.  In 1970, the Nation made a pivotal $250,000 loan to Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) to help them fight for the settlement of their lands claims. The loan enabled AFN to continue to lobby Congress, which eventually led to the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.

More than 30 tribal nations, intertribal organizations and Alaska Native village corporations have passed resolutions or sent letters of support to Congress. Tribes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and New Mexico are calling for the restoration of Southeast Alaska Native lands. 

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.

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