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January 2022
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ifty years ago, Alaska Native people embarked on an unprecedented journey. Our people understood what was at stake when oil was discovered on the North Slope: we needed to stand up for our rights or we could be left out of the prosperity that our lands would generate. Further, Alaska’s Indigenous peoples are not a monolith. The vast size of Alaska meant that the unique needs of the Tlingit and the Yup’ik, or the Athabascan and the Alutiiq, could not all be met by a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach. Our leaders understood that to preserve our self-determination, we would need to exercise self-determination.

With minimal experience in the Western corporate business world, we would undergo a completely new approach to Indigenous self-determination: regional and village corporations, crafted and bound by law to preserve our ancestral lands, provide for our peoples’ needs, and nourish their cultural health. Brave leaders would step forward to helm these new creations, learning and growing with the same resilience and ingenuity that enabled our survival for the past ten thousand years.

Koniag Board of Directors
The Koniag Board of Directors travels to each village to hold trainings and community meetings after incorporation, 1973.
Koniag Board of Directors, 1973, Armstrong Archive (AM71), KANA Collection, Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository
Sealaska directors sign the Sealaska Articles of Incorporation in 1972
Sealaska directors sign the Sealaska Articles of Incorporation in 1972 with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Harrison Loesch. From left to right: Clarence Jackson, Jon Borbridge Jr., Marlene Johnson, Harrison Loesch, Dick Kito, Leonard Kato.
Courtesy of Sealaska
Phillip Guy of Kwethluk
The late Phillip Guy of Kwethluk assisted villages during the ANCSA land selections process. He was one of Calista Corporation’s first board members and served as a representative in the Alaska State Legislature.
Courtesy of Calista Corporation
Unalakleet high school students meet with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office
Unalakleet high school students meet with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. To the immediate right of President Nixon is the late Martha Anagick Aarons, who later served as a Board Director for Bering Straits Native Corporation.
Courtesy of Bering Straits Native Corporation
Visual Stories
ANCSA at 50 Visual Stories
Doyon highlights the achievements and struggles that early leadership faced—and overcame—as they fought for Alaska Native land claims and established Doyon, Limited.
Celebrating fifty years of ANCSA, Koniag examines its origins and early leaders.
In “Voice of the Elders,” Ahtna, Incorporated looks at its past, present, and future.
Celebrate 50 years of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) with a documentary produced by the ANCSA Regional Association.

Reclaiming Our Heritage: Cultural and Language Revitalization Among the Unangax̂ People

The Aleut Corporation is the regional corporation for the traditional homelands of the Unangax̂ people. The Aleut Corporation’s portfolio of subsidiaries provide services in technology, environmental, construction, infrastructure, oil field testing, land management, and more.

Here, Aleut shareholders discuss the importance of cultural reclamation and revitalization efforts that have been supported by the corporation through language preservation programs and cultural camps.


or Crystal Dushkin, one of the most significant and memorable cultural moments of the last several years was the 2013 launch of an iqyax, a traditional Unangax̂ kayak, at the conclusion of the first Atka Culture Camp, Niigugim Tanasxaa. The construction of this iqyax began in 1996 along with a few others, but this one was left incomplete. Seventeen years later, participants in that first camp were able to take part in completing the frame, sewing on the skin, and launching the watercraft in celebration of thousands of years of heritage and history that continue to be passed down through generations.

“The launch was great,” she recalls. “I was glad our kids had that opportunity to work on a frame, to see and participate firsthand in something that was a continuation of what our ancestors had done before.”

Cultural reclamation and revitalization projects within Alaska’s Indigenous communities are not new. But particularly in recent years, as Elders and Indigenous language speakers have aged and passed away, there has been a renewed focus on developing, funding, and maintaining programs that allow Alaska Native people to access the language, culture, and heritage of their ancestors—and continue to pass that knowledge on.

For The Aleut Corporation, that has meant investing in and supporting a variety of programs both in the ancestral home region of the Unangax̂ people, as well as in other areas where shareholders and descendants now reside. Culture camps and language preservation have been chief among those investments, and the efforts of those programs are continuing to produce results.

ANCSA Education Foundations, Scholarships Are Life-Changing
Bristol Bay Native Corporation is the regional corporation for the Bristol Bay area in Southwest Alaska, which includes traditional homelands of Alutiiq, Dena’ina, and Yup’ik peoples. Its operating business lines include construction, industrial services, government services, seafood, and tourism.

usic was always part of Ricky Lind’s home growing up in Dillingham. His parents, aunts, and uncles held monthly Bible studies and hymnal songfests, called “singspirations,” between their homes. His dad and uncles played guitars and his mom and aunts sang.

“My cousins and I grew-up like this, so music became second nature for us; we would often join them in performances at church and other singspirations including the annual Native Musicale here in Anchorage,” Lind says.

Those family gatherings laid the foundation for a lifelong love of music that Lind turned into a career as a music and band teacher, thanks in large part to scholarships he received through Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) Education Foundation.

A BBNC shareholder, Lind obtained his bachelor’s degree in Music Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and his principal certification and master’s degree in Education from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).

Alaska Native Corporations:
Beyond Economic Impacts
Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) is the regional corporation that represents the traditional homelands of the Dena’ina Athabascan people. CIRI manages a diverse portfolio of investments in Alaska and throughout the Lower 48, bringing profits back to Alaska where they are used to promote the economic and social well-being and Alaska Native heritage of the company’s shareholders.

Here, CIRI explores the economic benefits of Alaska Native Corporations to their communities, including the impacts of supporting community nonprofits and tribally designated organizations to deliver services such as healthcare and housing.


he Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act’s (ANCSA) passage fifty years ago and the creation of Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) ushered in an era of a different kind of corporation. Imagine the creation of a corporation charged to financially prosper on behalf of its shareholders, with an additional directive to provide a wide array of benefits to its Alaska Native shareholders and descendants. Look around at the ANCs created under ANCSA, and you see mission statements that reflect this very reality. Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) was created with this same vision, and while its region closely approximates the traditional homeland of the Dena’ina Athabascan people, the makeup of CIRI shareholders and descendants represents the diversity of all Alaska Native people. While initially thought to be a vulnerability, it is this diversity that has carried through the years and provided broad economic benefits that continue to drive CIRI’s mission.

Economic opportunity and development have many meanings in Alaska, and the diversity of this vision of economic growth is a proven strength for ANCs. While these organizations demonstrate success in business growth and investment in Alaska, the Lower 48, and around the world, a key accomplishment of ANCs is that they bring these profits back home to invest in our communities, infrastructure, people, and culture. While CIRI, along with other ANCs, has continued to grow its net worth and provide direct economic benefit to its region, shareholders, descendants, and community members over the past fifty years, the economic reality goes well beyond simple accounting.

CIRI’s diverse investments in Alaska create jobs and are critical components of a healthy Alaska economy. As an example: the turbines of Fire Island Wind in Cook Inlet, visible along the western horizon from Anchorage, provide reliable and environmentally friendly renewable energy to the Anchorage area, keeping homes and businesses powered up into the future. With the potential for expansion of the Fire Island project, there is opportunity to grow CIRI’s positive economic and environmental impacts in the region. Fire Island Wind is just one example of the incredible impacts that ANCs have in Alaska, with the benefits from endeavors like these remaining here in Alaska to support our communities.

Inside the Rise of Women Leading Alaska Native Corporations

Chugach Alaska Corporation is the regional corporation for the Alutiiq, Eskimo, Tlingit, and Eyak people in the Prince William Sound and outer Kenai Peninsula area. Chugach Alaska’s work includes government contracting, oil field services, mechanical contracting, midstream energy staffing, and more.

Chugach officers discuss the success of women in ANCs surpassing most national averages for women in leadership roles thanks to investments in scholarships, training, and mentoring.


hen asked how long she’s worked at Chugach Alaska Corporation, Chairman of the Board and Interim CEO Sheri Buretta reflects on her daughter’s birthday. She distinctly recalls the year she first served on the board—1998—because she was also pregnant with her daughter, Anastasia.

Both milestones—becoming a mother and being elected as the only female board member at the time—represent significant points of pride for Buretta. They also reflect the multi-faceted gender and cultural identities that shape Alaska Native women in leadership roles today.

“Historically, Alaska Native women have played vital roles in shaping, defending, and strengthening their families and communities, and these traditional values translated to many of the same leadership skills that were necessary to thrive in the business world after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [ANCSA] was enacted,” explains fellow shareholder and Chugach’s Executive Vice President of ANCSA Lands and Community Affairs Josie Hickel. “Sheri brings the same strength, resolve, passion, and compassion to her work as she does to her community involvement and family.”

Both Buretta and Hickel are among the many Indigenous women serving in key leadership positions for Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). They also reflect broader trends that show Alaska Native women collectively outpacing national gender equality statistics.

“Many countries and corporations today are setting their sights on gender diversity goals that are already happening relatively organically within Alaska Native Corporations and Native organizations at large,” explains ANCSA Regional Association Executive Director Kim Reitmeier.

Dig Afognak and Alutiiq Museum: Cultural Renewal on Kodiak Island
Koniag is the regional corporation for the Alutiiq people of the Kodiak archipelago. Koniag’s portfolio of companies includes government services, commercial IT, real estate, energy and water, and Kodiak Island operations.

onnection to ancestral lands and language, leading to personal and community pride in who we are and where we are from, are at the heart of how Koniag sees the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) today. When President Nixon signed the bill into law on December 18, 1971, creating a different kind of corporation and a new kind of shareholder, few could have predicted just how successful the new corporations would become, producing positive impacts far beyond just dollars and jobs.

In the Koniag region, two examples of this far-ranging success are the Alutiiq Museum and Dig Afognak. Ask anyone who’s been to Dig Afognak, and you’ll receive a multitude of responses about its powerful, moving impact.

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Celebrating 50 Years of ANSCA is published by Alaska Business Publishing Co. Inc. for the ANCSA Regional Association. Copyright 2021 by the ANCSA Regional Association. For information about articles in this edition or for permission to reproduce any portion of it, contact ANCSA Regional Association.
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