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Commemorating the Signing of ANCSA; Hosted by Commonwealth North Celebration  -  Part 4 - Matthew Nicolai
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E. Lee Gorsuch: They say politics is the art of compromise. Last night, Willie mentioned that after the Native Associations filed their claims, they totaled 150 percent of the entire state of Alaska. It was going to take a fair amount of compromise, even within the Alaska Native community, to decide on a fair distribution of the settlement. There were two particularly unique provisions in the Settlement Act. One was called revenue sharing, because some of the corporations that had large land masses felt the settlement should be based on the amount of land that was lost. Others felt that populations with large numbers of Alaska Native people should be based on a per capita settlement. Then an interesting provision came up, referred to as revenue sharing. The second provision was that the subsurface of the land would be held by the regional corporations, while large portions of the surface estate would be held by the village corporations.

Matthew Nicolai serves as the CEO in Calista. I want to ask you, Matthew, if you’d talk about these two provisions, how they’ve worked out, and what do they mean in terms of the respective roles of the village corporations versus the regional corporation?

Matthew Nicolai
Matthew Nicolai: Thank you, Lee. Good morning, everybody. Again, thanks to the Commonwealth North for inviting a group of authors of the Alaska Native Claims Act. I’m honored to sit here with Willie Hensley and Byron Mallott. We should give them a great big hand for being a negotiator for ANCSA. (Applause)

I’m the new kid. I’ve been at Calista for 26 years. I grew up within the company and through the pains of Calista, and I’ve had many positions throughout the years. When Native corporations went through the process of selecting their lands within their regions, each region went through a process of change of accepting something that was alien to us as Alaska Natives no matter if you come from Southeast or in the Yupik country or up in the Inupiat country. Our values are about sharing. We share everything that we own no matter where we sit. That’s what Mr. Gorsuch was talking about, revenue sharing.

As I talked with the authors and also the negotiators of ANCSA the issue of revenue sharing came about through several ways of negotiating by the leadership during that time. I have come to understand that the concept of revenue sharing came from the history of Native cultures. We have long believed that we should always share, no matter what wealth we have.

The resource development that came out of ANCSA’s Section 7(i) strongly impacted national economies. Land is very important to the future of Alaska Native corporations. In that segment alone, seven regions are active producing mineral properties. Those seven regions have distributed $541 million through the 70/30 process to all of the regions. I’m not going to name those seven. That’s a hefty sum.

Over the past 30 years, half of the $541 million has gone to the village corporations. There are 203 village corporations, and that revenue has had a huge impact on them, too.

The economies of village and regional corporations impact the urban areas. Many of us order our supplies from Anchorage. Many of us order our supplies of fuel through the Nikiski, much of the fuel was purchased for subsistence activities out of those funds. This is what ANCSA Section 7(i) was about.

I was talking to Martin Moore because his late father was one of the individuals who worked very closely with the leaders here to address the issue of sharing. For that purpose, the resource development, which we’re still working on as regional corporations, is going to be important for future generations. All of the other regions are working on oil development, and the revenues that from that are going to be very substantial for the next 20 years. Again, those revenues will impact the next generation of leadership.

Something that is very important to the future of our people is education. I was watching the news yesterday, on Channel 11, and they talked about scholarships that are given out by Native corporations. Right now they’re giving out over $2 million in scholarships each year, and that’s from just the regional corporations, not including the 203 village corporations that give scholarships. An issue that is very important to Alaska is the future of our people. The Native leaders are working on those.

One thing I want to clarify every time I hear it in a meeting: ANCSA was not given to us. We owned the properties before. Last night, I became perturbed when the news lady said we were given that property, we were given that money. We owned Alaska before. That’s one thing that I want to set straight for the record.

We have to continue to work together under this resource development concept. The concept of the land loss formula came from the value that’s very important to us, to continue sharing the wealth that we have. As an example of how the land loss formula works, in Calista, we have 6.5 million acres. By population in our region, we should have 9.2 million acres, but through the land loss formula, the other 2.7 acres went to other regions. The other regions then developed their resources, which they, in turn, share with those villages. Thank you.

E. Lee Gorsuch: Thank you, Matthew. As Julie indicated, the Settlement Act was by no means a silver bullet and many issues remain to be resolved. Byron Mallott, having served as the Commissioner of Community Regional Affairs, where he looked at the instrumentalities of local government and provided services through that mechanism, and serving as the CEO of the Southeast Native Regional Corporation, and then the executive director of the Permanent Fund, has a unique perspective on the public policy issues that face Alaska as it relates to the well-being of Alaska Natives. So, Byron, if you would just share your thoughts on what agenda you think needs to be addressed by Alaska.

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