The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) will be turning 50

Willie Hensley, is one of the founders of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). For the non-Trekkies, this is not him in the Gif above; that would be Spock.. 🤓

Anyways..ANCSA was enacted December 18, 1971. In anticipation of this monumental milestone, I have some thoughts about the Act.

Willie has been someone I call upon with questions, seeking advice, and to understand better their thought process regarding nuances of the law. One conversation in particular has stayed with me.

I called him asking what was the reason for the threshold of eligiblity to run for the various Alaska Native Corporations? The requirement is twofold, 1) be a native shareholder of the corporation, and 2) be at least 18 years old.

He responded (ad-libbing) that they knew the law wasn’t a perfect version when enacted. He went on to say that as the ANCSA Corporations evolve and new generations of leaders become more educated and experienced in business, it will be up to them to address emerging issues with solutions.

ANCSA was only enacted after the Alaska Native statewide leaders voted to accept the negotiated language in a statewide forum, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). Thereafter, President Nixon signed it into law.

One of the reasons for the eligibility criteria is also because in 1971, there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of Alaska Natives with a higher education or business background.

Some of the nuances of the ANCSA mirror lower 48 Tribal Government structuring, which is still written in that law today.

There weren’t federally recognized Tribes in Alaska until over 20 years after ANCSA was enacted.

I sought out Willie’s perspective because I needed a better understanding of the background that created the current governance structure at Alaska Native Corporations.

As a former elected ANC board member, I spearheaded a proxy initiative for shareholder’s to vote upon. The initiative was to update the qualifications of candidates eligiblity with 5 years business experience or a Bachelor’s Degree. It failed to pass.

The corporations are private, commercial enterprises with a unique mission because of our status as Native American people.

Right now the Alaska Supreme Court is deliberating on an issue related to Alaska Native Corporation election regulations within the jurisdiction of the State of Alaska Banking and Securities Division.

The Plaintiff asserts he is protected under the freedom of speech that allows him to say anything about political candidates.

Essentially, he is arguing that the Alaska Native Corporation board candidates are government politicians, therefore he can say anything about them.

I disagree completely.

ANCs are private corporation’s that have proprietary information to protect competitive advantage in business. Government officials have a separate set of rules that include broad transparency, besides the areas of government requiring secret clearances.

By his assertion, he is arguing that my right to privacy is non-existent as an Alaska Native Corporation board member or candidate. He believes his rights are above mine.

I never signed a waiver setting aside my US Constitutional Rights, nor was I asked to, when I signed up to be a board candidate.

Circling back to the eligibility requirements; having board candidates and members that do not know the difference between the rights of private business enterprise to that of governmental entities is a problem.

Reducing the rights of privacy for private enterprise and private citizens is a dangerous precedent to set.

His position as the Plaintiff, is advocating for socialism. We are not a Socialist Society in America.

It would be a prejudice against native owned businesses and people, if his wishes are granted by the Alaska Supreme Court.

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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