Guest Post: The Who, What, Where, Why and How of Alaskan Forest Carbon Offsets

The Who, What, Where, Why and How of Alaskan Forest Carbon Offsets

By Denise Farrell and Debbie Atuk

Who can earn carbon offsets?

Alaskan landowners, regional and village corporations, tribes, and private landowners, located in a specific region of the State (see map below), who actively preserve forest lands and improve forest management practices are eligible to participate in the California cap and trade program. The generation of carbon offsets and the subsequent sale in the cap and trade market can generate substantial profits for landowners. Undertaking a forest carbon offset project preserves culturally important lands, in pristine condition, for future generations.

What is a carbon offset?

Forests are potent tools in mitigating climate change due to their capacity to sequester and store carbon. The stored carbon can then be sold as offsets in carbon markets which seek to incentivize forest carbon sequestration by putting a price on carbon emissions. One such market, the California carbon market, came into existence in 2013 after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solution Act of 2006. Under state law in California, carbon-emitting entities must either pay the State of California for allowances to cover their emissions or buy carbon offsets from forest owners to meet compliance obligations. A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made to compensate for an emission made elsewhere.

Where does the project have to be located?

In designing the cap and trade program the California Air Resources Board (“ARB”) designated certain areas in Alaska as eligible for forestry projects. ARB primarily selected the assessment area in regions where there was accurate US Forest Service inventory data. Accurate inventory data is a prerequisite for determining the “baseline,” for the geographic region. Only carbon sequestration above such baseline can generate carbon offsets. Currently, to be eligible for the ARB cap and trade program, forest projects must be located in the highlighted regions on the map below.

AK Forestry

Why are landowners provided the financial incentive to preserve forests?

A carbon offset is designed to provide incentive to take actions that are “additional,” to business as usual or above a baseline of activities. In undertaking a forest carbon project in the assessment area, landowners are making a 100-year commitment to continuing to maintain the carbon sequestered in the project area above the baseline. By sequestering the additional carbon they are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of the cap and trade program is to have emitters purchase allowances or offsets (for only a small portion of their requirement). The offsets can only be generated by projects or activities that CARB want to encourage, such as forest preservation. The financial return for generating these offsets intends to provide the financial encouragement as well as the moral imperative, to do such desired actions.

How does the California Cap and Trade Program work?

Depending on the local topography and tree species composition, certain parcels of land could be developed as a carbon project which generates offsets. The development team of Environmental Attribute Advisors and Encourage Capital works with forest owners to evaluate and then if feasible, develop forest carbon projects. Our development team can undertake a desktop assessment of the lands at no cost, if certain information is provided. If the assessment yields a positive finding, then our team will propose terms to develop the project. The project development is expected to take 18-24 months and could generate a windfall of cash, potentially worth millions, for the landowner at the end of the development period. Our team will hire inventory crews, biometricians, carbon quantification experts, and verifiers to develop this project ensuring that the project meets all the requirements of the California forest carbon protocol. Our team will typically invest all up-front capital in the project to cover any related carbon development expenses in return for a minority portion of the carbon offsets generated by the project.

How to get started?

In order for our development team to assess project feasibility, propose terms and estimate the potential revenue generated from a carbon project for the landowner, we will request the following information:

  1. Latest forest inventory; and the inventory methodology which was used to collect the inventory
  2. Location of inventory plots, GPS coordinates and shapefiles
  3. Maps of the property
  4. Harvesting plan (if any)
  5. Ownership documents, and record of easement (if any)
  6. If inventory data does not exist, then any other related information such as a recent property appraisal
  7. Profits realized from the carbon project will be taxed as any other commercial activity. The landowner should review tax considerations with a tax advisor as they may vary for individuals and may differ from one state to another.

Major Considerations in Developing a Forest Carbon Project

  • No risk or upfront costs for landowner, our team will cover all costs and develop the project
  • If carbon project is successful, then a minimum 100-year stewardship commitment to monitor the project
  • Windfall of cash in the next 18-24 months, potentially worth millions along with the potential for annual accretion of carbon offsets
  • Penalties in case of intentional reduction in carbon stocks (no penalties in case of unintentional reversals e.g. forest fires)
  • Annual recurring expenses to sustain forestry management, maintain the carbon project and hire foresters
  • After initial project set up, foresters must enter the property and verify the project once every 6 years which will entail expenses to be paid by the landowner
  • An opportunity to be a pioneer in the fight against climate change and global warming
  • Culturally important lands are preserved for future generation in pristine condition


For Additional Information Contact

Denise Farrell



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Why Indigenous peoples and issues are more visible in Canada than in the U.S.

I moved to Canada from Alaska about a year and a half ago. One of the first things I noticed in my visits to Canada as a college student and now in my everyday life is that Indigenous peoples and issues enjoy far greater visibility within Canadian media and society than Alaska Native/American Indian peoples and issues do across the border. Indigenous peoples and issues are practically invisible in the U.S. at almost every level of government and society, save perhaps those western states with significant Indigenous populations such as Alaska and New Mexico. In Canada, Indigenous peoples and issues are regularly featured in mainstream news media and there is as a result a running public discourse about issues that impact Indigenous peoples such as cultural appropriation, identity, and social inequities between Indigenous communities and most other parts of Canada that simply doesn’t exist in the U.S.

This post provides a partial explanation for why Indigenous peoples and issues are more visible in Canada than in the U.S. However it is notable that greater visibility of Indigenous peoples in Canada is not necessarily translating into more positive health and wellness outcomes for Indigenous peoples compared to American Indians/Alaska Natives.

1. Population

Perhaps the most obvious difference accounting for differences in visibility between Indigenous peoples in Canada and the U.S. is the stark difference in population size. Indigenous people in Canada account for about 4.3 percent of Canada’s population of 36 million. By contrast, about 2.9 million people identify as American Indian or Alaska Native in the U.S., or less than one percent of the total U.S. population of 309 million. American Indians and Alaska Natives therefore account for a tiny sliver of the overall U.S. population compared to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis in Canada.

2. Geography/demography

Canada has a population that is smaller than the state of California’s that is spread across a landmass that is slightly larger than the entire U.S. Most of the population in Canada is concentrated along the U.S.-Canada border.


Most of the 10 provinces and three territories have significant Indigenous populations and rural fly-in communities in their jurisdictions. Two of the territories (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) have majority Indigenous populations.

The provinces along the Canada-U.S. border (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec) all have First Nations reserves within their jurisdictions, most of which are in remote regions of the provinces, and some which can only be reached year round by plane.

In addition, Inuit Nunangat (the Inuit homeland) accounts for a whopping 36 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline. Inuit are the majority population in the four regions that make up Inuit Nunangat.


American Indian reservations in the U.S. are by contrast concentrated in western states.
Very few states except for those in the West have rural American Indian communities, and only Alaska has communities in it that are only accessible year round by plane.

3. The Constitution

Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution affirms the treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, including modern land claims agreements. Indigenous peoples’ rights occupy their own section (Part II) of the Constitution, even though the full text of that section is short:

35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Section 35 represents a hard-fought victory for Indigenous peoples who negotiated this language into the Constitution when it was being drafted in 1982.

The Constitution’s clear recognition of Indigenous treaty rights in Canada contrasts with the comparatively murky references to “Indians” within the U.S. Constitution (the reference to Indians in Article I, sec. 8 as being equivalent to foreign nations for the purposes of commerce is foundational to American Indian law).

4. Mainstream media 

The mainstream media coverage of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada dwarfs that received by American Indians and Alaska Natives in both amount and quality. Mainstream media coverage of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada has a positive impact on the public’s understanding of Indigenous peoples and issues and enhances the political capital of Indigenous political entities. In the U.S. by contrast, American Indians and Alaska Natives are completely absent from mainstream media unless there is a newsworthy crisis that warrants coverage.

I hear or see Indigenous peoples on the news or radio in Canada at least once a week, mainly on federally-funded CBC programming. Indigenous peoples and issues are the focus of mainstream news reports almost everyday.

Screen shot 2017-05-22 at 12.28.09 AMRosanna Deerchild (Cree) hosts her radio show Unreserved every week, broadcast nationally from Winnepeg. The show features a broad range of Indigenous peoples and issues.

Screen shot 2017-05-22 at 12.32.37 AM

Provincial media such as the public TV Ontario often integrates Indigenous peoples and content into its programming as well.

Concluding thoughts

Greater visibility of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada translates into federal lawmakers nearly all having a rudimentary grasp of who Indigenous peoples are (at least First Nations, who have the largest population of the three main Indigenous cultural groups in Canada). However it is unclear to what degree this understanding translates into policy action that enhances the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples.

At the political level in the U.S., the relative invisibility of American Indians and Alaska Natives in American society translates into reduced political capital that in turn makes it exceedingly difficult to leverage support for policy change from either the broader society or the federal government. However American Indians/Alaska Natives have managed to leverage broad public support for causes that in turn translated into policy action, such as the long-term, mass protest at Standing Rock that led to the Obama administration’s intervention in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.


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Federally recognized tribes should brace for possible termination policy under Trump

Whether we like it or not, Saglutupiaġataq (“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun) is now president of the United States and Republicans control Congress. Federally recognized Alaska Native and American Indian tribes should brace for the worst, including the possibility that Congress may move to terminate federally recognized tribes.

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

From the American Indian Relief Council:

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government….Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state.

Saglutupiaġataq’s administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

Saglutupiaġataq has tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Interior, the federal agency overseeing the Borough of Indian Affairs. Zinke is a known fraudster with little integrity. Scientific American characterizes Zinke as a “mixed bag” with an anti-environment, pro-industry voting record. It is unlikely that he will be a friend to Indian Country or to Alaska Natives.

American Indian trust lands

American Indian trust lands

Some estimate that American Indian lands held in trust by the federal government hold as much as one fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with significant coal reserves. Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 shows us that tribal lands and thus tribal governments, peoples, and cultures remain vulnerable to the whims of Congress. There is a strong possibility that American Indians may soon be fighting against a renewed and calculated assault on their political, cultural and spiritual existence.



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In Response to Fairbanks Daily Newsminer article on Alaska Land Into Trust issue: “Alaska Native lands ruling stirs deep concern”

Link to article here.  ADN op-ed linked here.
The interlocutor for the “con” side of the reporter’s story on the latest land into trust development, stemming from the DC Court of Appeals decision handed down last week in Akiachak v. Salazar, is a non-Native individual who is strongly interested in halting or stalling “federal overreach” on public lands in Alaska through the state instrumentality Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA). The individual as reported took it upon herself to proscribe “what is best” for Alaska Natives who have proudly resided both within the state and in some cases across international boundaries for millennia.
For the “pro” side of the argument, the reporter sought the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) non-profit advocacy organization Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). While AFN is technically made up of individually enrolled tribal members who also happen to be shareholders of ANCSA regional and village corporations, the primary concern of AFN is to promote the interests of the for-profit ANCSA regional corporations based in the state. Can the President of AFN speak for the specific interests of each tribal government in Alaska? Much less can the press secretary of AFN speak for the specific interests each tribal government in Alaska? Rightly, no, which is why no statement was forthcoming from AFN officials for the purposes of the reporter’s story.
The tribes themselves can only speak to their own interests, and the three tribal government appellees of Akiachak v. Salazar know their reasons for fighting the federal and state governments for over two decades to apply for small parcels of land to be held in federal trust. Since each tribal government is named in the court reporter summary attached to the case, why did the reporter not attempt to contact their offices, and if the reporter could not reach any tribal officials for comment, why was it not mentioned in the story reaching a state-wide audience?
Already members of the Alaska Outdoor Council and former AFN General Counsel Donald Craig Mitchell have been providing landslide logic and doomsday scenarios knocking on our very doors, ranging from between the “Balkanization” of natural resources and lands management within state boundaries, or that “Indian casinos” are going to pop up in quick order from Barrow to Atka and Ketchikan and everywhere in between, now that tribes in the state at last have a low-impact channel to become land-owners and managers of land, in small parcels that cannot be under threat of willing or hostile sale due to the federal trust status. The Secretary of Interior and the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs will certainly not accept land into trust applications willy nilly regardless of any larger consequences beyond the applicant tribes, per the BIA Land Into Trust handbook, recently pointed out by op-ed contributor and Canadian Métis UAF adjunct professor of federal Indian and ANCSA law Jenny Bell Jones.
There have been instances of ANCSA village corporations transferring all or some of their lands to tribal governments – communities made up of corresponding shareholders and tribal members – which required a super-majority board of directors’ vote and super-majority shareholders’ vote following broad consensus amongst their communities. This should make it clear not every ANCSA regional and village corporation are going to transfer large swaths of their lands to their corresponding tribal governments as part of a land into trust application, which would be two very different and unrelated processes to begin with.
I hope the next land into trust story from the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer will feature due diligence from one or more of their reporters, and not feature a one-sided argument from a non-Native individual on the negative aspects of diverse Alaska Native tribal government applications for land into trust.

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Governor of Alaska and the Tribal Advisory Council

On October 14th, 2015 at the Egan Center in Anchorage, during a National Congress of American Indians and Alaska Federation of Natives co-hosted meeting of tribal leaders and Governor Walker and his Cabinet members, the governor signed Administrative Order No. 277.  AO277 created the Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council, or GTAC, where 11 tribal leaders from around the state will be nominated and selected amongst the sovereign tribal governments to sit for three years and to advise the Governor of Alaska on 11 different but inter-related Alaska Native issues:

1. Education

2. Healthcare

3. Subsistence

4. Energy

5. Public safety and justice

6. Wildlife and fisheries

7. Economic development

8. Housing

9. Transportation

10. Language

11. Culture

Not since Governor Tony Knowles has such high-level acknowledgment been achieved between the State of Alaska and the 266 federally-recognized tribal governments located within the state, and before that not since ANCSA was passed in 1971 has such a high-profile been designated to Alaska Natives by the state.  Governor Knowles made a misstep, however, in the year 2000 with the “Millennium Agreement,” where the agreement stipulating a state-tribal relationship required an “opt-in” clause for tribes to sign the agreement.  The “opt-in” clause waived sovereign immunity in some respects, automatically creating an unequal partnership between the state and any tribe that signed the agreement.  As a result, not more than 50 federally-recognized tribal governments signed the agreement, and the subsequent “state-tribal relationship” spelled out in the agreement halted entirely.

Under the guise of AO277, there is no waiver or any other reservation requested or required by the state for tribal governments to nominate seats; 11 tribal leaders will have direct access to the Governor’s office and to the various departments under his or her charge, with direction to advise on the 11 topics numbered above.  For too long has the State of Alaska literally fought tooth and nail politically, policy-wise, and in the courts tribal governments around the state.  A few lucky tribal governments have successfully applied for and received “Capital Improvement Project” monies from the legislative Capital budget process, but with the literal drain of funds for FY16 and beyond due to the crash in crude oil prices, options for tribal government participation in the state government apparatus looked minimal.  With GTAC in the opening stages, there is much potential for years of wrongs to be righted in terms of state-tribal relations, and therefore improving tribal governance and increasing governmental capacity in the most remote areas and regions of the state.



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UAF Interior-Aleutians Campus to Host Alaska Native Fish and Game Co-Management Seminar November 19th & 20th, 2015 in Fairbanks, Alaska

Co-Management Symposium

Weaving Together Two Worlds

Purpose: A forum to build understanding, relationships, and knowledge for advancing the co-management of Alaskan fish and wildlife resources.

Progressive focus: Shared value of healthy ecosystems, healthy populations, and resource abundance.

Co-Management is the term that defines systems and opportunities that provide an adequate and meaningful role for Alaska Natives in management of traditional resources. Alaska Natives and their Tribal governments, Tribal consortiums, nonprofits, and corporations have served as stewards of their traditional lands and resources for thousands of years maintaining healthy and productive ecosystems, they have proven knowledge, skills, and abilities to adequately manage Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources. Co-Management refers to a system where those relying upon the resources have a substantial role in making decisions about the management for healthy, productive ecosystems and populations.

Who is this symposium for?
This event will bring together University of Alaska researchers and staff, Alaska Native Tribal and ANCSA corporation leaders and staff, state and federal fish and game managers, and those with the vested interest in seeing successful co-management in Alaska.

Co-Management Symposium – Day 1 & 2
Building on a historical perspective of fish and wildlife management in Alaska, speakers will focus on the contemporary challenges and opportunities for co-management in Alaska today. Successful examples of co-management in action will be highlighted, one-to-one sharing and dialogue will be incorporated,  and collaborative solutions will be identified.

Co-Production of Knowledge – Day 3
In conjunction with the Co-Management Symposium there will be an optional third day for Tribal leaders/staff, university researchers, and agency researchers  that are interested in developing collaborative research partnerships. This interactive workshop will be particularly useful for Tribal leaders who are seeking partners for identified research priorities.


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The Politics of Dispossession – Alaska Context

For the past 10 years I have closely read federal Indian law, from the Supreme Court “Marshall Trilogy” cases to the latest amendments made to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.  I have even compared Aboriginal law and policies between Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.  There are many similarities between all of the former British colonies, or the indigenous peoples’ lands occupied by Euro-Americans.  The League of Nations, of which the Covenant was signed and entered into force in 1920, and the modern-day version United Nations, organized in 1945, would not recognize the unique rights of indigenous peoples across the globe until 2007, when the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was agreed to by the UN General Assembly.  Even then, the declaration is not legally-binding, and only provides guidelines or a framework for nation-states to “begin on the right foot” recognizing indigenous peoples’ relations within fluid laws and policies.  I say “fluid,” because the aim of many indigenous peoples – around the globe, not just in Alaska, not just in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many countries elsewhere – is to further improve upon the accommodation of indigenous peoples within Western legal regimes.  In this modern day and age, should the Marshall Trilogy really be the pillar of US federal Indian law?  Should Native Americans across the US really allow themselves to continue to be characterized by racial and discriminatory stereotypes, like savages, hunter-gatherers, and plain uncivilized?

Simultaneously, the bilateral Treaty of Cession of 1867 between the US and the Russian Crown made a distinction between “civilized” and “uncivilized” Alaska Natives.  According to ourselves, as Alaska Natives, we were never less than civilized.  The Treaty of Cession also included brief mention of “creoles,” as a social and cultural class.  In the fall of 2006 I attended a doctoral dissertation lecture in anthropology by a young Russian lady from St. Petersburg, and her work only included those of “full-blooded” Russians in what is sometimes labelled Russian America.  After she gave her practiced lecture, I raised my hand and asked about Russian creoles or mix-bloods.  She commented it was an interesting question, and replied “I haven’t considered that.”  How can one spend an academic career examining Russian America history and not consider the implications of blood, social, and cultural creoles?  My paternal ancestral line descends from such a lineage.  I had never met nor heard of the young lady prior to her lecture, but how could I not be personally offended by the occlusion of Alaska Natives from such an in-depth, broad historical academic treatment of government and Russian America Company records?  I am still to this day nine years later incredulous and dumbfounded.

All of my grandparents, whom none were non-Native, were born before 1936, the year the Indian Reorganization Act was implemented in Alaska, creating “tribal governments” which the federal government would recognize and treat with on a government-to-government basis.  I imagine all of my grandparents were enrolled into one tribal government or another, even though they all moved from seasonal camp to seasonal camp and did not stay in one place for long.  I also imagine Bureau of Indian Affairs “Indian agents” also pushed on their parents, whom six out of eight were Koyukon Athabascan, to apply for Indian allotments from the 1898 congressional Dawes Act, where individual Native Americans could apply for and receive up to 140 acres of land within their home regions.  From these applications, my four grandparents inherited acreage and so too my parents.  I believe my father inherited a parceled allotment in Galena, and my mother her own parceled allotment in Tanana.  In 2008 I went to Tanana for the first time in twelve years since my grandmother Maudrey’s memorial potlatch in 1996.  I walked around and reminisced and visited with family friends whom were long lost to me, but they knew who I was and never left Tanana for a single day as far as they were concerned.  One of the elders reminded me to look into allotments my grandmother’s family had held and inherited over the years.  Apparently the deeds to several parcels were not accounted for, down the Yukon River from town, as she explained to me.  My cousin and I went for a boat ride down that way to take a look around for animals and stopped at grandma’s old camp to check it out.  Maybe that is where parcels are held in name, I’m not really sure.  I haven’t had the time, nor the expertise, to look into the record, but I imagine from time to time, when I get inheritance papers and identity verification and other such records on my desk, as is temporally required for all of us humans, I will have to look into the record and work with many others to set it straight.  It would only serve our ascendants right.

Next comes the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which dates to my parents’ generation.  In 1971 only my grandmothers survived with their children.  My two younger brothers and I grew up with twenty-one aunts and uncles and countless first cousins.  I have decided I am nothing without my first cousins in the same town, Juneau, where I currently reside.  I tell people, besides law or graduate school, this is the first and only time I will ever live away from my first cousins.  I have decided we are that important to each other, in so many respects, for identity and support as all-too-brief examples.  Rewinding to ANCSA, my grandmothers and my parents and their siblings, in addition to tribal enrollment – my father in Louden Tribal Council and and mother in Tanana Tribal Council, all enrolled into Doyon, Inc, the regional corporation for Interior Athabascan peoples.  My dad and his siblings were enrolled into Gana-A ‘Yoo, Ltd, the village corporation for Galena, and my mother and her siblings enrolled into Tozitna, Ltd, the village corporation for Tanana.  Concurrently, my mother’s maternal uncle Morris Thompson was the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.  Governor of Alaska and soon-after Department of Interior Secretary Wally Hickel and US Senator Ted Stevens at the time had a hand in appointing him to the national position of working with federally recognized tribal governments.  BIA was the federal agency that organized and footed the bill for public hearings on ANCSA and community referenda held across the State of Alaska and even in some Northwest states like Washington, Oregon, and California for Alaska Natives living out of state.  “Uncle Big” would then go on to lead Doyon, Ltd and sit in various statewide leadership positions like the University of Alaska Board of Regents.  I remember him well from my childhood, and would very much appreciate the benefit of his views and insights to this day on state and Native politics, as do many others around the state I’m sure.  I do not hear the label “tribal shareholders” very often, but it does ring a bell: it denotes the dual-recognition Alaska Natives receive from the federal and state governments, and also a sense of unity between ANCSA corporations and tribal governments, which in reality is not always the case.  Either way, many Alaska Natives are both tribal members and ANCSA corporation shareholders, and we all have the right to vote in either forms of elected leadership of our peoples.

Continuing on to my personal experiences and engagement in federal Indian laws and policies, I have worked for Doyon Drilling, Inc, a subsidiary of Doyon, Ltd, and also for the Tanana Chiefs Conference wildland firefighting crew.  Because I am a shareholder of Doyon, I receive a preference for hire in business enterprise like Doyon Drilling, Inc.  The Tanana Tribal Council is a consortia member of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, and since I am an enrolled member of the Tanana Tribal Council, I receive a “Native preference” for hire under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, where tribal members are preferential ahead of non-Natives for hire in tribal governments and federal government agencies like BIA.  Uncle Big coordinated efforts on behalf of tribal governments around the country during the Congressional push for the ISDEAA, when he was BIA Commissioner.  I have worked for many other businesses around the state, and with many good people Native and non-Native, but the qualities of working for and with my fellow Native peoples is invaluable.  How easy it would have been for me as an impressionable young-twenty-something kid in the City and Municipality of Anchorage to make it in the non-Native world, not at all cognizant of “Native pride” or a sense of family history going back further – millennia – than “Western expansion.”  It sounds beyond cheesy, but if the preferential-hire programs did not exist, I would not be where I am today in my career, and prideful as I am of my family history.  At 21 years old going to work for Doyon Drilling put me next to people who have known my family for generations, and I now know and enjoy friendship with many of those people, even though I had grown up in Anchorage.  My first fire season in 2010 I was a member of an all Native squad of five members.  I never enjoyed working 16 hour days for two weeks straight than that experience with those four guys from a different region than I.  I can go to their villages at any given time and their friends and family would treat me as one of their own.

Recently, I was employed by a village corporation to process share transfers from the deceased to their named or by probate inheritors of stock. In the last decade the board of the village corporation decided on transferring whole shares to inheritors, to keep shares from becoming highly fractionated. Some shareholders hold stock up to three decimals, or essentially irrational amounts of shares, not to be equally divided until the shares return to the corporation itself. I was able to tabulate which classes of shares belonged to different age groups, and the board appreciated the work. We’re hoping the board can draft up new policies like creating a new class of shares for the “afterborns,” or descendants of original shareholders born after December 18th, 1971. Even with new enrollment of afterborns, much like fractionated Indian allotments from the 1898 Dawes Act, ANCSA shares are due to become just as complicated as the generations of shareholders age and new enrollees come into the fold. What is especially difficult is for an aged shareholder naming inheritors of their ANCSA stock, where some descendants might be favored and others left out. These are paradoxes concerning individual property vs. collective property.

This is how deep and important and vital Native identities are.  I carry around with me at all times my tribal enrollment card.  Because of the ID card, I can freely use Southeast Alaska Region Health Consortium healthcare services, an Indian Health Service “638” Self-Determination compacting and contracting consortia of Southeast Alaska tribes.  Despite all of this success, what is still at stake – and this is in closing – is subsistence.  ANCSA “extinguished” the exclusive subsistence, hunting and gathering rights of Alaska Natives.  It is our way of life, is in no way an understatement.  Federal lands, fish, and game management agencies recognize rural residency for subsistence harvesting, unless exclusive rights are explicit like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Alaska Native rights to hunt seals and waterfowl.  State lands, fish, and game management, however, recognize no exclusive Alaska Native right to hunt and gather.  Some say state agency managers even work to stall and obstruct federal agency management of subsistence harvesting by Alaska Natives.  When Alaska Natives participate in state agency decision-making fora, we are forced to explain our subsistence practices to sport and commercial fisherman, who often view these practices as “poor,” or “wanting.”  Our way of life has never been poor or wanting, nor do we wish to take animals simply for sport.  The best intersection is commercial fishing between Native and non-Native.  The State of Alaska has one of the longest coast-lines in the world, and all of the regions practice commercial fishing in one form or another.  Even so, local fisherman need protections like the state “limited entry” program, where locals receive and enjoy exclusive commercial fishing rights to a region, and the federal Community Development Quota program, much like the state’s limited entry, but for three miles offshore and beyond to 225 miles in the US Exclusive Economic Zone.  The State of Alaska Board of Game, which manages big game hunting like moose, in the past three decades only allowed for exclusive Alaska Native subsistence harvesting for memorial potlatches in the Interior.  The State of Alaska Board of Fish only has one designated “subsistence” expert seat out of seven total.  The same interests carry their weight in the Federal Subsistence Board to integrate as much as possible state management laws and policies for federal lands like National Parks and Wildlife Refuges around the state.  The political, social, and cultural voices and participation of Alaska Natives have almost been reduced to nothing in the modern lands, fish, and wildlife management in the State of Alaska.  I think about this, a lot, just about on a daily basis.  I can go before the boards and state similarities between the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia for subsistence harvesting, but I would only be patted on the head and be sent on my way.  There has to be a core, fundamental shift in how these boards operate and accommodate Alaska Native subsistence harvesting practices.  Maybe, just maybe, the unreachable ideological heights of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can find some form of applicability in the State of Alaska when it comes to Alaska Native subsistence practices.  The guidelines have to come from somewhere.


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