– “shareholders are individuals that INVEST in a corporation”

Land and resources within that land was what gave leverage to Alaska Native people to negotiate the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act . This is a widely known and accepted legal principle.

What the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) did simultaneously though, is to forever alter the traditional decision-making system of indigenous Alaska Natives by making them shareholders of a corporation.

ANCSA shareholders today have never been taught what the rules of a corporation are, much less their individual rights as a shareholder.

Shareholders are defined as owners of a corporation because they invested in the corporation.

So let me break this down by translating from my native-way of being as my core – through what I learned throughout life, which is western business practice – and how I connect these dots.

Individual Alaska Native people – had personal rights over Alaska lands which is what was of VALUE to the United States of America to negotiate the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The negotiation created Alaska Native Corporations, and Alaska Native people became SHAREHOLDERS.

So I will repeat myself with the definition of a Shareholder:

Shareholders are defined as owners of a corporation because they invested in the corporation”.

I have been taught about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act since I was a child, not through a school system but from my mother, who taught me school. Even then, I did not grasp the concept that shareholders can only be shareholders because of the individual shareholder investment in the corporation.

As native people, we think of ourselves as a ‘we’ not an “I”. So we think of “our” land; “our” corporation.

We do not think of our shares of stock in a corporation as “my” shares or “my” investment.

We were never taught about ‘MONETARY investment’ or the fact that through my birthright, individually; I invested in my Alaska Native Corporation – which qualified me to be an original shareholder through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.


We did not become shareholders as a handout.

We invested as individual stockholders, and that initial investment can be calculated by what the corporations received in compensation and rights because of us individually.

And indigenous people need to understand the value of what they individually INVESTED in these Alaska Native Corporations.

Alaska Native Corporations never existed to own land or have rights to the land. ANC’s did not exist to claim that land value as a negotiating tool.

But ANC’s received the TITLE to the land – ONLY because of individual Native People’s INVESTMENT in the Alaska Native Corporation.

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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