Doyon, Limited
Connected to the Land and Strengthening Shareholders’ Lives
By Tracy Barbour
Doyon, Incorporated

oyon, Limited has a deeply rooted commitment to responsible land management and enhancing the well-being of its shareholders and region. Based in Fairbanks, Doyon was incorporated on June 26, 1972 and has more than 20,400 shareholders mainly of Northern Athabaskan descent in Interior Alaska. One of twelve Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), Doyon is the largest private landowner in Alaska and one of the largest in North America. Under ANCSA, the corporation is entitled to approximately 12.5 million acres across the Interior. Doyon has selected 11.5 million acres to date, primarily around the thirty-four villages within its region.

Aaron Schutt
Doyon, Limited

Doyon’s corporate and cultural values are inextricably tied to having astute—and sustainable—land management practices. The corporation views itself as a “trustee” of the lands and other resources it oversees on behalf of its shareholders, according to President and CEO Aaron Schutt. “That frames the way we view lands and the core nature of our existence,” he says. “At its core, we are stewarding the lands that were entrusted to our ancestors.”

To exercise good land stewardship, Doyon employs effective material site management, management strategies, and other practices to ensure cultural and historical sites are protected. It also participates in projects that benefit shareholders and villages while prioritizing the local and traditional use of resources. Schutt credits Doyon’s “incredible” early leaders for creating a successful legacy in Alaska. “They were really intelligent and forward-thinking in creating opportunities for shareholders,” he says. “They did so much with so little back then.”

Collaborating with Partners

Doyon’s land management strategy concentrates on local uses, providing education and employment opportunities, and the responsible economic development of resources. To Jamie Marunde, Doyon’s Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources, a crucial facet of land stewardship is appreciating its serious—and enduring—impact. “The most important aspect is the understanding that we will own these lands forever,” she says. “So the activities we conduct on these lands take that into consideration.”

Take, for instance, Doyon’s sand, gravel, and rock interests. The corporation manages more than 100 materials sites across the region, and these resources are integral to enhancing community infrastructure, Marunde says. These locations are critical because they support numerous projects with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, among other entities.

Doyon works with a variety of partners, landowners, village corporations, agencies, and tribes on all aspects of land management. Recently, Doyon partnered with the State of Alaska and US Forest Service to conduct forestry analysis in the Lower Kuskokwim region. Data from the project will help answer large-scale questions related to carbon biomass and vegetation changes in the region as well as support local hiring and education.

Often, Doyon provides technical expertise to facilitate the planning, collaboration, and execution of local ventures. It also assists organizations by providing in-kind donations and financial contributions for grants. “These contributions are made to partners who are completing infrastructure-based projects that will benefit Doyon’s shareholders, projects such as local housing and local road maintenance,” Marunde explains.

Diversification Integral to Success

Doyon’s mission is to continually enhance its position as a financially strong Native corporation in order to promote the economic and social well-being of its shareholders and future shareholders, to strengthen its Native way of life, and to protect and enhance its land and resources. Business diversification has been a key factor to fulfilling this purpose. Doyon operates subsidiaries in oilfield services, government contracting, tourism, utilities, technology, and construction, with Doyon Drilling being its largest and most profitable company.

Doyon Drilling, which operates on the North Slope, produces half of the corporation’s revenues. It is also a major generator of employment, and about 50 percent of its workers are Doyon shareholders. Last year—despite the significantly lower activity on the Slope—Doyon Drilling paid $11 million in wages to 133 shareholder employees, according to Schutt.

Diversification also allows Doyon to create valuable opportunities for shareholders to engage in a variety of industries and training programs. Over the past forty years, Doyon Drilling’s Roustabout Training program has prepared about 1,000 participants for entry-level oil rig work. More recently, Doyon began training shareholders for the information technology field.

As Schutt contemplates ANCSA’s upcoming fifty-year anniversary, he fully appreciates the impact of the act: “ANCSA was this grand experiment, and it’s turned out pretty well. It’s served our Alaska Natives really well.”

And while a fiftieth anniversary is a monumental milestone to reflect on, it is critical for ANCSA corporations to continue looking to the future, Schutt says. “It’s really important to look forward and make sure we’re here for a very long time… to make sure our successors are stewards of the land and our businesses continue to grow and provide opportunities for shareholders,” he says. “The next fifty years will be just as exciting.”