Shareholders ARE Tribal Members in Alaska

The Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) are under attack by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). I am an ANC shareholder.

In a thinly-veiled call to action, the powerful national gaming association states:

* they naturally represent the interest of all tribal governments

* that Indian Gaming has always been about job creation and they are successful in that because they say there is a migration of Tribal Members back to reservations to work at casinos

* they encourage Tribes to lobby for the “number of Tribally-enrolled members employed by a Tribe or Tribal Enterprise” as a factor in the $8 billion CARES Act funding distribution methodology

* they encourage Tribes to lobby Congress to add Tribes and Tribal Enterprises, i.e. casinos, with less than 500 employees to be eligible for SBA loans of $10 million

What they didn’t include in their call to action:

* The National Indian Gaming Commission ( reports that Indian Casinos made over $38 billion in revenue for 2018 alone.

* Tribal members are paid Per Capita from casino revenues. I would argue it’s the Per Capita payment (dividends) that is a huge motivator for Tribal Members to “return home”, moreso than those minimum wage casino jobs.

* I know of a casino Tribe that pays it’s Tribal Members $10,000 per month, and they do not have an enormous casino.

I venture to think the migration and “return to home” means more natives are proving their right to enroll as Tribal Members and claim their Per Capita payments.

* Lower 48 Tribal Enterprise is equivalent to Alaska Native Corporations. In fact, lower 48 tribes have expanded rights compared to Tribes in Alaska.

Tribes in Alaska do not have land jurisdiction rights and neither do the land owners, i.e. ANC’s.

NIGA is pitting native people against each other in their call to action, in my opinion.

ANCs participating in the SBA 8(a) program had a combined revenue of less than $8 billion annually. The benefits and programs they choose to provide are similar to what a Lower 48 Tribal Government provides.

Tribal Members and ANC Shareholders are largely the same in Alaska. But, it is the ANCs that provide benefits to EVERY shareholder. Alaska Tribes do not (I know this first-hand from my Tribe). 

My Tribe receives money through funding formulas that include the number of Tribally-enrolled members, which includes me.  But I am not eligible to receive any of the benefits from programs and services created, in part, by those funding formulas.  I am not eligible to apply for education scholarships from my Tribe because they only serve Tribal Members living in the community. 

I am eligible to apply for and receive scholarships from my ANC village and regional corporations regardless of residency.

ANCs participate in the SBA 8(a) program with the end goal of promoting education, job opportunities, and cultural programs for shareholder’s.

We have limited commercial economies in rural Alaska. We certainly do not receive $10k a month in dividends (Per Capita payments). We are isolated geographically with no road access to the villages, making a local economy creation even more challenging. ANC scholarship and job opportunities are very beneficial to shareholders, regardless of where we choose to live.

If there had to be a choice between CARE Act funds being distributed to my ANC or my Tribe, I would hope it would go to the ANC, provided that the distribution, in part, is designated for individual shareholders. If it was distributed to my Tribe, it would only benefit people that live locally.

Published by Trudy Sobocienski

My blog, "Beyond Leadership" is a creative place to share my personal feelings and thoughts while working in leadership roles for a variety of Alaska Native organizations, both for and not-for profit entities. An incredible leader and mentor of mine once asked while we were in Washington, DC, "What happened to you between the ages of 7-10 that motivated you to serve in a native leadership capacity". I was struck by that poignant thought and as such, include actual entries from my mother and my diaries beginning in the early 1970's. I enjoy sharing these excerpts because it captures the parallels she and I were experiencing throughout life, from two separate worldviews. Hers as a young mother of four and mine as her eldest child. I have never came across a book on leadership that lays bare a leaders personal feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams they were experiencing. So for me, my goal is two-fold: 1. Share the incredible life my parents created for my siblings and I growing up in remote Alaska; and, 2) Sharing my humanity, through my personal diaries and journals, while serving as the youngest-ever President/CEO for the Alaska Native Health Board. There are passages that will include significant policy issues I was working on throughout my career and travels. There are many more passages that do not. I cannot speak for my mom's passages, because I am reading them as I share them here, with you; with her permission of course.

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