ANCSA series to focus on women, diversity, and future generations

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, or ANCSA, transferred title to land to for-profit regional and village corporations, not to tribes.

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.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.