Spring 2018

Alaska’s Conflicting Objectives

Rosita Kaaháni Worl and Heather Kendall-Miller
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The formal treaty-making period between the U.S. government and Native peoples ended in 1871, only four years after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. As a result, Alaska Natives did not enter into treaties that recognized their political authority or land rights. Nor, following the end of the treaty-making period, were Alaska Natives granted the same land rights as federally recognized tribes in the lower forty-eight states. Rather, Congress created the Alaska Native Corporations as the management vehicle for conveyed lands in 1971. The unique legal status of these corporations has raised many questions about tribal land ownership and governance for future generations of Alaska Natives. Although Congress created the Native Corporations in its eagerness to settle land claims and assimilate Alaska Natives, Alaska Native cultures and governance structures persisted and evolved, and today many are reasserting the inherent authority of sovereign governments.

ROSITA KAAHÁNI WORL is Tlingit from the Shangukeidí (Thunderbird) Clan and Kaawdliyaayí Hít (House Lowered From the Sun) in Klukwan, Alaska. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University. She serves as President of the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

HEATHER KENDALL-MILLER is Athabaskan and a tribal member of the Churyung Tribe of Dillingham, Alaska. She is a Senior Attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. She has litigated in the areas of Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights, tribal sovereignty, climate change, language preservation, Indian country, and ICWA, among others.