Nearly 40 years after CIRI was incorporated on June 8, 1972, CIRI President and CEO Margie Brown sat down with Roy Huhndorf, former CIRI president and CEO and Chair Emeritus of the CIRI Board of Directors, at CIRI-founded nonprofit Koahnic Broadcast Corp. to record a conversation about CIRI’s early years.
“Forty years goes by in a hurry,” said Huhndorf. “There were a lot of problems that we could not have foreseen. There were many naysayers out there, particularly outside of the Native community who predicted that the Act (ANCSA) would fail, that it wouldn’t be many years before the land and the money provided by the settlement act would no longer be in Native hands… Since then, the (Alaska Native regional) corporations have become worldwide in nature and have succeeded beyond, I think, even the wildest imaginations.”
“I remember my first few years at CIRI pouring over land-status maps and getting prepared to make selections,” said Brown. “My hats are off to those who early on recognized that we could not settle for second-best and that we needed to actually have the kinds of lands that would have an economic base for the Company.”
“As to the implementation (of the Cook Inlet Land Exchange), we were blessed to have people like you, Margie, I must say, working in our Land Department and using your imagination and innovation to get the best out of our settlement,” said Huhndorf. “Most people never anticipated that the corporations would use their money and their status to do anything that was outside of the realm of corporate activity, such as healthcare, social services, housing… We have a foundation that has distributed millions in scholarships in the last 20 years… We work to preserve culture (through entities) such as KNBA and the Alaska Native Heritage Center.”
“That says a lot about the future of the Company,” said Brown.