Opinion: Alaska Native contracts benefit many

"Prior to 1970 our people faced deplorable socio-economic conditions: Jobs were few and far between; health care was primitive; public services nonexistent; racial discrimination was common; and our people's legitimate claims to their ancestral lands were both ignored and trespassed upon.

Congress recognized, dating from Alaska's earliest laws, the unique relationship the federal government had with, and responsibility to, Alaska Native people. These dynamics led to the passage of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA). ANCSA created the Regional and Village Native corporations in Alaska today. Originally ANCSA brought two key resources to the new corporations: 44 million acres of land and $960 million paid over 10 years. While these resources were critical, the missing link was a path to real business opportunity.

Just as Alaska has changed over the last 35 years, ANCSA has also evolved. Thirty years after its passage, Congress recognized ANCSA required additional impetus and modified SBA regulations to assure that American Indians, Hawaiian and Alaskan Natives had access to the 8(a) Program, a federal initiative designed to give America's most under-represented groups a hand up in government contracting -- a rare federal economic program that actually works. This was our missing link to the modern economy.

Natural resource development in Alaska is a slow and expensive endeavor. And targeting Alaska's 670,000-person market for real business growth is unrealistic. The SBA 8(a) program has afforded Alaska's Native corporations a real opportunity to participate in the world's economy and to begin to reverse the historical Alaskan economic model. By returning profits earned Outside back to Alaska as dividends to our shareholders, salaries to our employees, and payments to Alaskan suppliers and contractors, Alaska's economy benefits."

Get the Story:
Sheri Buretta: Successful Native corporations benefit every Alaskan (The Anchorage Daily News 12/4)

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