This week on AK we continue our series on Alaska Statehood by delving into Alaska Native perspectives on becoming the 49th state. Fifty years ago, many Alaska Natives still lived isolated rural lives: some weren’t even aware when Alaska became a state… or how it affected them. But they figured it out quickly with the land claims movement and remain the core of Alaska’s cultural heritage.
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Host: Steve Heimel
Natives and the Plans for Statehood
AK’s Steve Heimel, Interview
Today, many Native Alaskans feel like their voices were never part of the discussions leading up to statehood. They’re getting a chance now to add their voices, in discussions being lef by Liz Cheney and the First Alaskans Institute. But native historian Don Mitchell says it’s true: they had little to do with it at the time.
- Music Button: “Another Day” by The Cure from Three Imaginary Boys
Meeting up at Boarding Schools
Contributor Anne Sutton, Story
Natives from diverse backgrounds were soon asked to come together, to settle aboriginal land claims. For Willy Hensley and Edward Itt it was a far cry from how they grew up. But Byron Mallott says it helped that many knew each other from boarding school.
- Break: Music by nunivarmuit kasyautait of Mekoryuk, performing at Camai Festival in Bethel, 2004
The Birth of the Alaska Federation of Natives
APRN’s Ellen Lockyer, Story
When Emil Notti returned to Alaska in 1963, he found villages in poverty and rural jobs scarce. Soon, despite the lack of funds, natives came together to work on their own plan for land claims. The result was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
AK’s Bonnie Sue Hitchcock, Story
ANCSA is considered brilliant by some, but people like Dacha Alexander of Fort Yukon don’t like the way the Native Corporations’ drive to make money seems to over-taken other uses of the land. Colorado University law professor David Getches says it’s unavoidable.
- Music Button: Wainwright drummers performing at Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Barrow, 2006
AK contributor Ann Kaiser, Story
The village corporations formed to manage village tribal lands for the most part haven’t been as profitable as the big regional corporations. But for Port Graham, that’s starting to change: they’re starting up a new eco-tourism lodge with Alaska Wildland Adventures that they hope will be profitable, provide jobs, and help sustain their culture.
- Music Button: performed by The English Bay Band of Nanwalek
Fishing for Change
Contributor Johanna Eurich
Native fisherman Robin Samuelson recounts how his father and other took on the canneries to help put an end to discrimination against Natives in the Bristol Bay fishery. Senator Ted Stevens helped out with the community development quota program he designed.
- Break: “Similar Realities” by Pamyua from Verses
Uncle Ted & the Tribes
Contributor Johanna Eurich, Story
It’s impossible to separate Ted Stevens from the history of statehood. And while Stevens has often helped rural Alaska with funding for a huge range of needs, he hasn’t been an advocate for tribes. So while many Natives will support him despite his recent conviction, others never have been his biggest fan.
- Music Button: The Alaska Flag Song, performed in Inupiaq
Contributor Johanna Eurich
Vic Fischer, a long time Alaskan and delegate to the state’s constitutional convention, recalls arriving in Point Hope just in time to head out whaling.
AK’s Ellen Lockyer
Ellen Lockyer spoke to a number of Natives at AFN about statehood; their opinions vary widely. Jack Schaeffer of Point Hope wants the North Slope to become its own state – because he says Alaska is unfriendly to subsistence. Wilson Justin says it just happened too fast. Liz Cheney of the First Alaskans Institute says talking about it is the first step to repairing the relationship between Natives and the state.
- Closing: “Next Generation – Positive and Looking Forward” by Craig Austin from World of Music (Instrumental)