On Wednesday November 14, Sealaska board member and former President and CEO Byron Mallott went before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources to discuss Haa Aaní—legislation that would finalize Sealaska’s land entitlement under ANCSA and secure sacred sites for the people of Southeast Alaska. Haa Aaní means simply “Our Land” in Tlingit.
ANCSA promised to return 44 million acres of land to Alaska Natives, however, more than 36 years later only 37 million acres have been conveyed to our people. Haa Aaní would allow the federal government to close this chapter of its promise to Southeast Alaska Natives and Sealaska.
During the next year, as the House and the Senate work on the bill (H.R. 3560), Sealaska will continue its work with all interested in the legislation: Southeast Native communities, conservation groups, the Tongass Futures Roundtable, fishing communities and others.
At the hearing, Mallott noted, “Our right to this land entitlement is undisputed. The only question is ‘where’ this land will come from. We believe that this legislation offers a good solution, but we remain committed to working with everyone to refine the selections,” said Mallott.
Mallott continued his impassioned testimony by saying “It is important for all of us who live in the Tongass, as well as those who cherish the Tongass from afar, to recognize that the First Peoples of the Tongass—Tlingits, Haidas and Tsimshians—are committed to maintaining not just the flora, fauna and biological ecology of the Tongass, but to preserving this place as the land of our ancestors, with all that means in spirituality, values and beliefs.
“We have nowhere else to go and wish for no other place. The Tongass is our home,” Mallott concluded. “We therefore look forward to a reasoned, open, and respectful process as we attempt to finalize our ANCSA land entitlement.”
To learn more about the Haa Aaní legislation and what Sealaska is doing to fulfill our final land entitlements, please visit our Haa Aaní page in our Campaigns section for more information.
To read a transcript of Mallott’s testimony, please click here.
To read about the legislation being introduced in Congress in September 2007, read our news item.