40 years ago Sunday, President Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act into law. It was an historic piece of legislation for Alaska Natives, and over the last four decades its played a huge role in our state’s economy.
Alaska’s lawmakers credit the act with astonishing economic growth over the past four decades. Native corporations have distributed more than a billion dollars in shareholder dividends alone, and created tens of thousands of jobs worldwide.
But on the 40th anniversary of the act’s passage, there are still several major challenges yet to be met.
40 years after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, one of the state’s largest Native job banks has one wish: economic opportunity for Alaska Natives.
The act simultaneously disbursed more than 40 million acres of land and nearly a billion dollars, and created Alaska’s regional and village corporations, and lawmakers and Native leaders alike say they’ve seen the impacts firsthand.
While Native corporations operate 21 of the top 49 businesses in the state, not everyone feels the benefits. The Institute on Social and Economic Research reports Alaska Natives make up one-fifth of the state’s unemployed, and according to the Anchorage Coalition on Homelessness, more than 50 percent of Anchorage’s homeless are also Alaska Native.
While the Native Claims Act has a multi-billion dollar economic impact, some people are still waiting to feel it.
The Institute for Social and Economic Research also reports roughly 21 percent of Alaska Native families are living below the federal poverty level, compared to seven percent of all Alaska families.