Sealaska shareholders gave strong support to a resolution that will extend eligibility for Class D (Descendant) stock in Sealaska to lineal descendants of original shareholders without respect to their documented Alaska Native blood quantum.
Sealaska joins Calista and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation in rejecting the practice of quantifying degree of Indian blood in order to be a shareholder.
“I want to thank our shareholders for having the difficult conversations and doing the soul searching that so many did as we discussed this resolution in virtual meetings and on social media this spring,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “This result is consistent with our traditional values as well as our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as a company.”
Enrollment of new Class D shareholders begins immediately. The application has been updated to reflect the new criteria, and applications are expected to be processed on an ongoing, monthly basis.
“Elimination of the blood requirement is a monumental step in our healing journey. We, no doubt, have our share of challenges in our communities. This arbitrary rule will no longer be one of them organizationally,” said Sealaska board chair Joe Nelson. “I believe that most of our grandparents wanted to hold the door open for all their grandchildren, not just some of them. Whether or not the grandchildren walk through the door and enroll, that is up to them.”
Sealaska’s board remains unchanged after Saturday’s meeting and election results — incumbents and board-endorsed candidates ´Wáahlaal Gíidáak Barbara Blake, Tseiltin Jodi Mitchell and Tashee Richard Rinehart were reelected. Independent candidate Daanawáak Michael “Mick” Beasley was also reelected to the board.
Each of the newly elected directors will serve a three-year term. Mitchell is the current vice chair of the board; serves as the chair of the audit committee; and is a member of the compensation, finance, governance-nominations, and Naxtoo.aat / Wayi Wah / Hágwsdaa committees. Blake serves as chair of the Naxtoo.aat / Wayi Wah / Hágwsdaa (Let’s go!) committee (formerly known as the policy committee) and is a member of the finance and shareholder relations committees; she is also a manager on the Haa Aaní, LLC (HAL) Board of Managers. Rinehart serves on the audit and finance committees; he also chairs the board of managers for Sealaska’s land management company, Haa Aaní, LLC. Beasley serves as a member of the governance-nominations and shareholder relations committees; he is also on the HAL Board of Managers.
The meeting included a 2021 business and financial report to shareholders from Mallott and Chief Operating Officer Terry Downes. Sealaska’s net income grew by $5 million over 2020 to $61 million in 2021. Shareholder benefits spending was $26.7 million in 2021, down from $28.5 million in 2020, when Sealaska provided $1.8 million in pandemic-related additional benefits.
The annual meeting was Sealaska’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019, and the first in Juneau since 2015. Sealaska held three in-person community meetings in May but canceled a fourth meeting in Juneau as COVID cases ticked up in mid-May. With the successful execution of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Celebration in early June, Sealaska leaders proceeded to hold the annual meeting in person, with vaccination and masking required. The meeting was also webcast for shareholders outside Juneau and for those who are not yet comfortable gathering in person. More than 1,000 shareholders joined us online.
The blood quantum resolution was approved by a vote of 750,283 to 497,946, which represents 57% of shareholders in favor and 40% opposed. Candidates received the following vote totals:
- Mitchell, 1,043,153
- Blake, 1,039,143
- Rinehart, 1,026,280
- Beasley, 1,008169
- Lekanoff, 444,021
- Roberts, 341,744
Saturday’s agenda kicked off with a small recognition event to celebrate Sealaska’s 50th anniversary of incorporation on June 16, 2022.
“In reflecting on this milestone, one of the biggest themes is how much we owe to the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, and to the tribe,” Mallott said, referring to the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (T&H). “These two organizations made the land-claims settlement with the federal government possible, and it is thanks to them that we retain even a portion of our ancestral homelands.
“It has been an incredible 50 years,” Mallott continued. “We have learned and grown and have been able to fulfill many of the aspirations of our founders, like providing educational opportunities to our youth and establishing Sealaska Heritage Institute. We are still learning and growing, and we cherish the opportunity to serve.”
The annual meeting also included a new round of awards called the Clarence Jackson Language Awards. The purpose of this award is to recognize individuals for their tremendous impact on language revitalization, with this year’s focus being on Elder/birth speakers who are sharing their knowledge.
2022 award recipients:
- Ḵaakal.aat Florence Sheakley, Lingít
- Kaanak Ruth Demmert, Lingít
- Ilskyaalas Delores Churchill, Xaad Kíl
- Shu Gunya Donna May Roberts, Sm’algya̱x
A new Sealaska Board Youth Advisor was also named. Deikeenaak’w Connor Ulmer is a May 2022 graduate of the University of Alaska’s Southeast with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He has held various professional roles with T&H and is a member of T&H’s Juneau community council. Ulmer has served as a volunteer coach and board member for Juneau Jumpers, a youth athletics organization, and has studied advanced Northwest Coast wool weaving, spinning and dye.
Gludás Tia Silva-Martin was recognized for her service as Board Youth Advisor from 2021-22, and in the custom of the board, was given the opportunity to provide the closing words for the meeting:
“As youth, we need to get involved with our corporation and engage,” said Silva-Martin. “At some point we’re going to be in ones in these leadership roles. It has been such an honor to serve.”
Enrollment of newly eligible descendant shareholders will begin immediately. For information on how to apply and to find answers to frequently asked questions, please click here.
For information on annual meeting and webcast prize winners, please visit the Sealaska Facebook page.
Established in 1972 and celebrating our 50th year in business, Sealaska is the Alaska Native regional corporation for Southeast Alaska. Our 23,000 shareholders are Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people with more than 10,000 years of ancestral ties to the oceans, forests and communities of Southeast Alaska.