- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Congress is picking up a bill that would create corporations for residents of five southeast Alaska communities left out of a landmark land settlement decades ago.

The bill authored by U.S. Rep. Don Young went before the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Wednesday, the southeast Alaska radio network CoastAlaska reported (https://is.gd/T6uJNf). The Alaska Republican chaired the hearing. Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced similar legislation.

Haines, Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Tenakee were excluded from the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The law compensated Alaskan Natives for the loss of historically used lands, leading to establishment of regional and village Native corporations, and a total granting of 44 million acres of land and more than $960 million.

Residents were represented at the hearing by Leo Barlow of Wrangell. Barlow said people who enrolled to the five communities did so because those are their traditional homelands.

“Our families and clans originated in these communities and have lived here for hundreds if not thousands of years,” Barlow said.

About 3,500 Tlingits and Haidas that were affected became shareholders of Juneau-based Sealaska regional Native Corp.

Similar legislation has been introduced numerous times.

No clear reason was found as to why the five communities were excluded, other than congressional intent, according to a report by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

The inclusion of the communities is opposed by federal officials who say doing so would allow others to follow that example.

Young said at the hearing that before the settlement act was passed, Congress was lobbied by the timber industry, which wanted to keep more of the Tongass National Forest available for logging.

“The communities involved here had large lumbering, timbering operations,” Young said. “And there was effort put into this Congress at that time not to recognize them because it might have affected the long-term leases for that timber.”



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