Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) was formally recognized by the State of Alaska as a state-incorporated entity on June 23, 1972. We are pleased to celebrate 50 years of improving the quality of life of Our People through economic development while protecting our land and preserving our culture and heritage.
Shortly after ANCSA was made law, five incorporators within each region signed Articles of Incorporation to conduct business for profit. BSNC’s original articles of incorporation were signed by Jerome Trigg, Martin Olson, Fred Katchatag, Sr., Charles W. Fagerstrom and George Bell.
BSNC is owned by and exists for the benefit of our shareholders and descendants. BSNC began with 6,333 original shareholders and today there are more than 8,100 shareholders through the process of gifting and inheritance of stock. BSNC is a mission-driven company working to both foster a continuation of our way of life, and build value for Our People through economic development.
Senator Ted Stevens, left, congratulates Martin Olson, right, and Gary Longly, center right, of Bering Straits Corporation, in Anchorage on July 1, 1972, after the implementation of ANCSA and the distribution of the first settlement checks to Native Corporations. (Dept. of Interior/Stevens Foundation photo)
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.
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. (Photo by Bartz Englishoe)
Selling ANCSA Stock
When ANCSA passed in 1971, the land and ANCSA stock was protected from sale or loss. But after 20 years, there was a window for such sales to occur, allowing shareholders to sell their stock. Under this scenario, the stock could then go public, meaning that anybody could own it, not just Alaska Natives. And the new stock owner could then own a share in the lands that were conveyed under ANCSA and other benefits from the Native corporation.Amendment: This amendment put significant restrictions on the ability of ANCSA stock to go public and the ability for shareholders to sell their stock. Under the amendment, shareholders can vote to “go public” but this would require a supermajority of eligible shares to vote to approve.
Issuance of New Stock Classifications
Under ANCSA, each regional corporation was authorized to issue shares of stock to Alaska Natives enrolled with that region. These shareholders are considered “original” shareholders. Under the New Stock Issuance amendment to ANCSA, corporations were allowed to ask shareholders if new shares should be added.Amendment: Under this amendment, shareholders of each corporation may vote to issue up to 100 shares of additional Alaska Native stock to descendants (those born after December 18, 1971), Elders (over 65 years of age), and Natives who, for whatever reason, missed the original enrollment.
Amendments to the historic legislation are allowing corporations and leaders to leverage the value and benefits of ANCSA. In 1987, corporations had the ability to establish settlement trusts to issue payments or other benefits to shareholders with no tax liability. This was a significant amendment that allowed BSNC to create the Beringia Settlement Trust which has tax benefits to both the company and our shareholders.
Alaska Native Veterans Allotment
The Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program provides for any Alaska Native Vietnam veteran who served between Aug. 5, 1964, and Dec. 31, 1971, to select up to 160 acres of federal land that they may have been eligible for under the Alaska Native Allotment Act, but were not able to apply for due to service in Vietnam. The Alaska Native Allotment Act was repealed when ANCSA was enacted in 1971.Amendment: In 2019, ANCSA was amended and reopened the application period for eligible Alaska Native Vietnam veterans or their heirs. Applications are being accepted through Dec. 29, 2025.