A Message from CIRI Board Chair Emeritus Roy Huhndorf
My name is Roy Huhndorf and I have served on the CIRI Board of Directors from 1972 to 1998 and from 2002 to the present. I was born and raised in Nulato, a rural interior Alaska village. My family moved to Anchorage in the mid-1950s so my siblings and I could attend school.
Today, I live in Ninilchik, an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)-designated village in the Cook Inlet region. My wife Charlene and I have two daughters and four grandchildren.
ANCSA passed in 1971, and I was honored to serve as CIRI’s president and CEO from 1975 to 1995. During this time—through rounds of negotiations with the state and federal governments, leading to the 1976 Cook Inlet Land Exchange and the finalization of land selections for Cook Inlet village corporations—CIRI leaders consistently sought fair settlement on behalf of the people of its region.
While a significant percentage of CIRI’s original shareholders were of Dena’ina and Ahtna Athabascan descent, CIRI is the corporation of Alaska’s urban center, where many Alaska Native people relocated from other regions and subsequently enrolled with the corporation. Presently, approximately 40% of our shareholders live outside Alaska.
CIRI is known as the “melting pot” of Alaska Native regional corporations, and virtually every Alaska Native group is featured among our more than 9,100 shareholders—Aleut/Unangax, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, Tsimshian and Yup’ik. The diversity of CIRI’s shareholders is a key to the company’s success, as each of us brings to the table a unique combination of ideas, personal history and worldview.
In the early 1970s, several Alaska Native leaders told me that CIRI would probably be the first Alaska Native corporation to fail because we didn’t have a single cultural identity, but it certainly didn’t turn out that way. In fact, CIRI has distributed more than $1.1 billion to shareholders since its inception—more than any other Alaska Native regional corporation.
CIRI has never thought of itself as a single culture; we are Alaska Native people and strive to celebrate everyone’s culture in the Alaska Indigenous family. At the same time, we stand in solidarity as Alaska Native people. At the end of the day, our differences allow us to consider different viewpoints, and our sense of community makes us stronger. This is the primary reason CIRI has become the success it is today.
Learn more about CIRI’s land story and the early history of the corporation at www.ciri.com/cirilandstory.