Forty-three years after the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), a new generation of leaders is at the helm of the corporations, both regional and village, created under the landmark legislation. Unlike in most of corporate America, many Alaska Native business leaders are women. We spoke with several about their perceptions of ANCSA while growing up, how they've been affected by the legislation, as well as how their corporations have grown and changed and what's next.
President and CEO
The Kuskokwim Corporation
Maver Carey grew up in Anchorage and says she knew almost nothing about ANCSA before she started working at The Kuskokwim Corporation (TKC) in 1994, although her mother is from Aniak. It wasn't taught in high school or college, she says.
"I wish it was," she says. "I'm actually encouraging our school districts and universities to provide a stronger curriculum in this area."
President Nixon signed ANCSA into law in December 1971. The legislation was intended to settle aboriginal land claims by giving Alaska Natives title to 40 million acres of land and $962.5 million to be divided among 12 regional and about 220 village corporations. The corporations were tasked with providing for the economic, cultural, and social well-being of their shareholders.
The mandate for cultural and social support makes the dynamics of running a Native corporation different from other businesses, Carey says, such as providing scholarships that she used to earn a degree at Gonzaga University.
TKC is a village corporation in Southwest Alaska formed from the merger of ten small village corporations along the middle Kuskokwim River. Today, TKC has 3,500 shareholders, which include the descendants of the original shareholders. Its revenue in 2013 was $62 million, Carey says.
The corporation signed an agreement with Donlin Gold in 2014 that spells out the conditions around the development of what could be one of the largest gold mines in the world on land owned by TKC. Calista regional corporation owns the subsurface rights.
"It's a huge milestone for TKC," Carey says. "We're going to see some great economic benefits from Donlin. Our region is the poorest in the state of Alaska."
The mine, with a life expectancy of about twenty-seven years, will provide royalties, as well as employment for shareholders, Carey says. TKC will play important roles in reclamation and environmental oversight. A port, currently planned for Jungjuk Creek near Crooked Creek, also would bring benefits to the region. TKC is working with the school district, Donlin, and Calista to establish a training facility for residents. In the past, half of TKC's shareholders lived in the region, but because few jobs are available, only about 36 percent now call the villages home. Carey hopes to turn that around.
Carey says the TKC board of directors has been negotiating with Donlin for several years with the goal of establishing an economic legacy for shareholders on the scale that the massive Red Dog zinc mine in northwest Alaska has done for NANA Regional shareholders.
Another milestone for the corporation was the shareholders' decision to...