Community Perspective

Alaska Native corporations are strong local businesses

Alaska Native corporations are the epitome of local business. Owned and controlled by Alaska Native shareholders, and firmly rooted in our ancestral homelands, ANCs are not going anywhere. The mechanism toward economic self-determination, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, was mandated by Congress. And the location of its implementation has been, and will be, the home of our people for thousands of years.

Through the passage of ANCSA, the federal government created Alaska Native corporations. ANCSA was a different approach to federal Indian policy by Congress with an intended goal to create a path toward economic self-determination for Alaska Native people. ANCSA extinguished aboriginal land title in Alaska and divided the state into 12 distinct regions. It mandated the creation of 12 private, for-profit Alaska Native regional corporations and over 200 private, for-profit Alaska Native village corporations — collectively, the ANCs.

Since our creation nearly 50 years ago, the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations have evolved in response to a growing shareholder base and the ever-changing economic conditions of the state and country. Through our subsidiaries, ANCs operate in a variety of industries, including construction, environmental services, natural resource development, technology services, real estate, government contracting and more. The diversification of business interests is a natural progression toward sustainable corporations that provide meaningful monetary and nonmonetary returns to Alaska Native shareholders for the long term.

Guided by our Alaska Native values, ANCs invest in people and communities by contributing to programs and organizations that broadly enhance Alaska and its people. In 2018, Alaska Native regional corporations collectively contributed over $16 million to a variety of nonprofit entities, tribal entities and Native communities across the state. ANCs support organizations that provide social services and cultural enrichment for our shareholders. They also invest in programs and organizations that improve the quality of life and economic well-being of our shareholders and descendants.

Some Alaska Native regional corporations provided the initial financial investment to create nonprofit organizations that specifically serve our shareholders, descendants and communities. This includes the 12 separate nonprofit foundations that support furthering educational and career opportunities for our shareholders and descendants. To date, the 12 education foundations have awarded more than 54,000 individual scholarships to Alaska Native shareholders and descendants, totaling more than $100 million for Alaska Native people to pursue various educational and career endeavors.

With the passage of ANCSA, the federal government shifted direction in its approach to federal Indian policy and ordered Alaska Native people into a corporate model. This system required Alaska Native people to adjust their approach to building a sustainable future and required the federal government to amend its approach to ensure the economic success of the mandates in ANCSA.

A major provision of ANCSA is section 7(i), where the 12 regions agreed to share 70 percent of royalties derived from resource development of timber and subsurface estate on ANCSA lands. The revenue sharing agreement is a meaningful demonstration of Alaska Native values and in direct contradiction to a conventional for-profit business model.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young have an acute understanding of the role ANCs play within and outside of Alaska. They know the success of ANCs echoes far beyond Alaska Native shareholders — ANCs create jobs, inject capital and help strengthen the economy. The 12 Alaska Native regional corporations are grateful for their tireless efforts on behalf of our over 130,000 Alaska Native shareholders.

Kim Reitmeier is executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association, which represents the 12-land based Alaska Native regional corporations created pursuant to ANCSA.

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