Sealaska Legislation Scheduled for House Hearing
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources has scheduled a legislative hearing on two bills that affect Southeast Alaska. H.R. 740, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, and H.R. 1306, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Conveyance Act, will be presented to the committee on Thursday, May 16, 2013. Both bills relate to preserving Southeast Alaska jobs, and advancing the finalizations of Sealaska’s land conveyances required by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
H.R. 740 honors the intent of ANCSA, now 42 years old, and fulfills Congress' promise to Southeast Alaska Natives according to Sealaska Director Byron Mallott, who will testify before the committee. “This bill returns a fraction of our aboriginal homelands to us, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, and will support the advancement of our purpose—to strengthen our people, culture and homelands,” he said. “The Tongass is our indigenous home; it is, and always will be, a Native place.”
“This legislation (H.R. 740) will ensure that Sealaska can continue to meet the cultural, social and economic needs of its shareholders,” stated U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK). “From a jobs aspect, allowing Sealaska to select its remaining entitlement lands from outside the existing, very limited land pool would help all of the residents of rural and Alaska Native communities in the region.”
The partial settlement (H.R. 1306) would transfer a small subset of the land in H.R. 740 and would not detract from the purpose of the more comprehensive H.R. 740 settlement. H.R. 1306 provides an interim solution to preserving jobs vital to the region’s delicate economy if Congress does not act on H.R. 740 this year. The bills do not give Sealaska any more land than is authorized under ANCSA.
H.R. 740 is environmental, fisheries protection and conservation legislation protecting 61,000 acres of old growth habitat reserves and ensuring that 274,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas remain in public ownership, according to Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh. “It protects old growth habitat reserves, ensures that high value fisheries resources are protected and other lands with significant public interest remain in public ownership,” he said. “It is in the public interest to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
A similar bill is moving through the U.S. Senate and recently passed out of committee and awaits markup. “We appreciate how our Alaska delegation is helping fulfill Congress’ promise to restore our land to us,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr. “This legislation reflects our Native people’s core cultural values and balances today’s economic, cultural and environmental priorities of Southeast Alaska communities.”
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.