A series of talks on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act begins in Anchorage on Friday, Jan. 26.
Passed in 1971, ANCSA transferred millions of acres of land to 12 Native regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations.
But as the decades go by since the act was passed, ANCSA is still not fully understood.
“ANCSA is this big thing that people kind of know a little bit about,” Angela Gonzalez with the Alaska Native Media Group said. The group is hosting the series of talks at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Gonzalez said establishing Native corporations and gaining land rights has helped reinforce Native identities.
“Even though we check ‘Alaska Native’ on a cultural background list, it’s so much deeper than that,” Gonzalez said. “I’m Koyukon Athabascan from Huslia, Alaska,” she explained.
Gonzalez said that deep sense of identity has been passed down to younger generations — to people like Kacey Hopson.
“My Inupiaq name is Qunmiğu,” Hopson said. “My family is from Wainright, Barrow and Kashmir, Pakistan.”
She wasn’t alive when ANCSA was passed, but Hopson said she knows the act has had widespread impacts.
“It’s hard to imagine a world in which ANCSA doesn’t exist, especially in my life,” Hopson said. “Because of what our elders did, their efforts, and the way that they organized, I’m still able to live in a world where I can still be connected to my culture and my heritage.”
Hopson will join Willie Hensley and Gary Ferguson on stage at the University of Alaska Anchorage Friday, Jan. 26 for the first of three talks on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Their talk is titled “The good, the bad, and the ugly from the perspective of three generations of Alaska Natives.”
The second talk is Friday, Feb. 23 on the diversity of village corporations and the third talk, on Friday, Mar. 23 is on women in ANCSA.
All three public talks will be held in UAA’s Rasmuson Hall and begin at 7 p.m.