Dec. 18 marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The Act created 12 Alaska Native regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations based upon cultural and geographic heritage, and it was the largest land claims settlement in United States history. It settled Alaska Native aboriginal land claims in exchange for title to about 44 million acres of land, an initial cash payment from the federal treasury and oil revenue sharing rights. The Act enabled statewide economic development, including construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline.
CIRI’s cumulative dividend distributions to shareholders has exceeded the original ANCSA total cash payment of $962.5 million, which was to be divided among all Alaska Native regional and village corporations. On Dec. 8, CIRI’s cumulative dividend distribution reached $965.7 million, topping the ANCSA’s total cash settlement by more than $3 million.
“This is an important milestone,” said Margie Brown, CIRI president and CEO. “ANCSA has given Alaska Native people the opportunity to economically empower themselves, their communities and the state. Celebrating this accomplishment on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Act is something I am proud of.”
Today, Alaska Native corporations generate statewide economic benefits, including jobs, revenue and resource development. They have also reversed the traditional Alaska business model that had Outside businesses come into the state to develop Alaska resources, and then export their profits to out-of-state owners. Instead, Alaska Native corporations use their business acumen and economic resources to do business in and outside of Alaska and keep profits in the state for Alaskan shareholders or to reinvest in Alaska business and development.
ANCSA’s other purpose was to provide a framework for Alaska Native corporations to provide economic, social and cultural benefits to current and future generations of shareholders. CIRI created and initially funded a family of independent nonprofits to provide social, educational, health care and cultural services to CIRI shareholders, descendants and others. These organizations provide needed services and education programs that reflect traditional Alaska Native values. They also help strengthen families and communities, and provide a wide variety of direct or indirect benefits to Alaskans.
CIRI endowed The CIRI Foundation (TCF) with $28 million in 2001. TCF provides education funding and services for original CIRI shareholders and their direct lineal descendants. TCF has awarded shareholders and descendants more than 12,000 individual scholarship and grant awards totaling more than $19.3 million and more than 240 heritage and education project grants totaling $2.2 million since 1983.