Case Study: Claims on the Land

Alaska Land Claims Amendment

In 1988, President Reagan signed an amendment to the land claims legislation which included several features designed to protect Native lands from possible loss. Specifically, all undeveloped corporately owned Native lands were placed in a state-regulated "land bank" which protected them from taxation and loss through bankruptcy as long as they remained undeveloped. If the land were developed, leased, or used as collateral, such protection would be removed. In addition, as an alternative to tribal ownership, the Secretary of the Interior could propose that lands and other assets be placed in a permanent "settlement trust" with shareholders names as beneficiaries. The federal government also gave distinct recognition to the view that Native corporations were not just commercial assets, but subsistence and cultural ones as well. And finally, legal steps were taken so that Alaska Natives born after 1971 could become corporate shareholders.

For further discussion of these and other aspects of the 1988 amendment, see: Nicolas E. Flanders, "The Alaska Native Corporation as Conglomerate: The Problem of Profitability," Human Organization, vol 48, 1989; and "The ANCSA Amendments of 1987 and Land Management in Alaska," Polar Record, vol 25, 1989.