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Celebrating 50 Years of ANCSA

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS - ANCSABSNC Commemorates 50 Years of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

After intense internal negotiations among the various Alaska Native groups and between Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) delegates and the state and federal government, Congress finally passed Alaska Native land claims legislation in 1971. On Dec. 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon addressed the delegates of AFN by phone and informed them that he had just signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act into law.

At the time, ANCSA constituted the largest land claims settlement in U.S. history, and evidenced a change in federal Indian policy by the U.S. government. ANCSA extinguished aboriginal land claims in Alaska and mandated a for-profit model with land title under corporate ownership. Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) were the first socially responsible for-profit entities tasked with promoting the social, cultural and economic advancement of Alaska Native people and communities in perpetuity.

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Washington D.C. (Standing left to right): Albert Kaloa, Jr. (Tyonek), Stanley J. McCutcheon (Tyonek Lawyer), Emil Notti (Ruby), Flore Lekonof (St. George), Cliff Groh, Sr., Barry Jackson (Fairbanks), Margaret Nick, and Morris Thompson (Tanana). Seated left: Willie Hensley. Seated right: Laura Bergt.

Upon the passage of ANCSA, a new era began for Alaska Native people. The federal government transferred 44 million acres of surface and subsurface land to Alaska Native regional and village corporations and distributed $962.5 million to the corporations as part of the settlement of aboriginal land rights. Approximately 80,000 Alaska Native people enrolled as ANCSA shareholders. Many of the early ANC leaders did not have educational opportunities past high school, and had limited experience in corporate management.

The first BSNC Board of Directors faced the task of identifying lands. Some of the Directors pictured are Richard Atuk, George Waters, Martin Olson, Bill Barr, Fran Degnan, Vern Olson and Suzanne Wassman during a land selections meeting in 1973 or 1974.

The first BSNC Board of Directors faced the task of identifying lands. Some of the Directors pictured are Richard Atuk, George Waters, Martin Olson, Bill Barr, Fran Degnan, Vern Olson and Suzanne Wassman during a land selections meeting in 1973 or 1974. (Photo by Bartz Englishoe)

On July 30, 2020, an historic milestone was reached when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed a final patent transferring more than 2,000 acres of ANCSA land at Point Spencer, adjacent to Port Clarence. The lands and adjacent waters of Port Clarence have served as a port of refuge for people of the Bering Strait region for centuries and the site holds important strategic geopolitical as well as historic ancestral and cultural significance.

“This conveyance has special meaning to me, as it represents partial fulfillment of lands selected by BSNC’s original Board of Directors, realizing the promise of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act nearly 50 years ago,” said BSNC President & CEO Gail R. Schubert.

The lands at Point Spencer are of national interest for the Coast Guard to more permanently conduct its duties in the Arctic. The conveyance allows for public and private sector facility and infrastructure development that will benefit the United States. The lands being conveyed to BSNC contain an 8,000-foot airstrip that was constructed by the Coast Guard, and additional lands will be transferred to BSNC at a future date, once environmental mitigation has been completed.

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A Mission Beyond Business

Our mission is to improve the quality of life of Our People through economic development while protecting our land and preserving our culture and heritage.

ANCs are unique in that our missions include a strong social component. BSNC is a mission-driven company working to both foster a continuation of our way of life, and building value for Our People through economic development.

Unalakleet high school students meet President Nixon in the Oval Office. To the immediate right of President Nixon is the late BSNC Board Director Martha Aarons.

Unalakleet high school students meet President Nixon in the Oval Office. To the immediate right of President Nixon is the late BSNC Board Director Martha Aarons. To the immediate left of President Nixon is the late Hazel Sagoonick. 

Our subsistence way of life is always considered when the Board of Directors and management meet and plan growth strategies. Because of this, we have thrived as Arctic people for thousands of years, sustaining rich cultural and social values that we share with future generations. We rely on the land, respect our heritage, and work to ensure that our descendants have the same opportunities to live healthy and sustainable lives. We strongly believe that sustainably in the Arctic should guide our future governance of our homelands.

We are living through a period of extraordinary uncertainty. With employees working on projects across the U.S. and globe, both the moving parts and the entirety of the work of our employees can go largely unseen, but each employee plays an important role in helping BSNC fulfill its mission.

After 50 years, despite the humble beginnings, Alaska Native regional corporations have become an integral part of the Alaska economy. Today, Alaska Native people, Our People, participate in Alaska’s and our Nation’s economic, political and social development, and continue to be the best stewards of our lands.

A Bright Arctic Future

Since the passage of ANCSA, we are pleased to note that to date BSNC has distributed more than $57 million in benefits to our shareholders and descendants. In fiscal year 2021, BSNC’s operating revenues totaled more than $468 million, our highest revenues to date. Management and the Board have worked hard to build a company that can provide sustainable benefits and services to our shareholders. We are committed to growing our family of companies and providing the best value possible to you, our shareholders. Quyana for your continued support.

BSNC’s endurance and growth over the past ten years is a testament to the Company’s commitment to its shareholders and the region. The Board of Directors’ and employees’ commitment to our mission situates the Company to make a positive, long-lasting impact for our shareholders and region.

Today, our company culture is unstoppable in its determination to fulfill its mission. Looking forward, BSNC will continue to work toward increasing shareholder benefits. We are looking forward to a Bright Arctic Future.

Learn More about ANCSA:

  • BSNC Land Series: Learn more about ANCSA, BSNC’s land base and how the corporation manages this important asset.
  • ANCSA Resource Center: The ANCSA Resource Center compiles, organizes & presents source documents, commentary and other information relating to ANCSA. It aims to be the broadest and most comprehensive source of information relating to ANCSA and is sponsored by Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP.
  • ANCSA Regional Association: The official Association of Alaska Native Regional Corporation CEOs.
  • Alaska Native Village Corporation Association: The official association of Alaska Native Village Corporations.
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Knowledge Network: This resource contains links to information, articles, audio interviews and curricula related to ANCSA.
  • ANCSA Documentary: “ANCSA: Our People. Our Land. Our Future.” is a documentary produced by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Regional Association. “ANCSA: Our People. Our Land. Our Future.” looks back at the start of ANCSA using historical footage and photos and captures a glimpse of what’s to come through interviews with Alaska Native leaders, policymakers and culture bearers. The film will premiere on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. on KTVF in Fairbanks and 8 p.m. on KTUU in Anchorage and KATH in Juneau and statewide. Visit https://ancsaregional.com/ancsaat50film/ for more information.
  • ANCSA and the Agents of Change: The Ted Stevens Foundation’s oral history project features a distinguished group of Alaskans who were instrumental in the passage of the ANCSA. Jake Adams, Cynthia Ahwinona, Nelson Angapak, Roy Ewan, Willie Hensley, Al Ketzler Sr., Sam Kito, Jr., Oliver Leavitt, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot, Marie Nash, Emil Notti, John Shively, and moderator Kristina Woolston are included in the video.
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OFFICESWhere to find us?
Bering Straits Native Corporation is headquartered in Nome, has a business office in Anchorage and site locations and offices across the U.S.
OUR LOCATIONS
ANCHORAGE
3301 C Street, Suite 100, Anchorage, AK 99503
NOME
PO Box 1008. 110 Front Street, Suite 300, Nome, Alaska 99762
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OFFICESBering Straits Native Corporation
OFFICESWhere to find us?
BSNC is headquartered in Nome, has a business office in Anchorage and site locations and offices across the U.S.
OUR LOCATIONSWhere to find us?
ANCHORAGE
3301 C Street, Suite 100, Anchorage, AK 99503
NOME
PO Box 1008. 110 Front Street, Suite 300, Nome, Alaska 99762
GET IN TOUCHStay Connected
Follow BSNC for news, updates, stories, and opportunities to share in this journey.
Sign up for our newsletter

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