Alaska Native Rights, Statehood, and Unfinished Business
26 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2008
Date Written: July, 21 2008
Alaska Native aboriginal rights to land and associated resources were never dealt with in a comprehensive fashion until 1971, when Congress passed the Alaska Native Lands Claims Settlement Act. Although general principles of federal Indian law provided strong support for the proposition that Alaska's Native people held aboriginal title to much of the new state, the Alaska Statehood Act itself carefully disclaimed any effect on aboriginal title. This approach was in keeping with the Congress's past dealings with Alaska Native property rights. This article outlines the history of Alaska Native aboriginal rights through the Statehood Act along with their post-statehood treatment in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The article closes with a look at the unsatisfactory treatment of two important aboriginal rights - access to fish and game and tribal sovereignty - and suggests that these areas should be revisited in consultation with Alaska Native peoples.
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