As we welcome 2022, we at Sealaska have much to be grateful for. We end the year safe and successful, despite facing continued challenges and disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sealaska continues to prioritize the health of our employees and deeply appreciates their tireless efforts to maintain COVID precautions while working to achieve business growth and enhance shareholder benefits. We also give thanks to our shareholders for helping shape the future of Sealaska, allowing us to engage with you on an ever-increasing level and inspiring us to grow in every sense of the word. This next year marks the 50th anniversary of the company and we’re excited to share this milestone with all of you.
Over the past year, the hard work of our employees and partners enabled our continued shift toward ocean health-focused businesses that address critical threats of climate change.
2021 was a year of both transition and growth. We successfully transitioned away from logging operations, a natural step in the reinvention of Sealaska’s businesses. We are deeply grateful for the commitment and professionalism of our employees and communities through this shift.
In August, Sealaska was proud to join with partners from around Southeast Alaska and commit $10 million to the establishment of the Seacoast Trust, which will provide consistent, long-term funding to the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP). The trust will support the work of the SSP, which functions to empower and strengthen cultural, ecological and economic resilience across the region. Our matching challenge of $10 million for the Seacoast trust will create a $20 million-and-growing fund to support economic development, healing and community priorities for generations to come.
This year, we continued to advocate for Alaska Natives through our policy work. Sealaska joined Alaskans for Better Government in support of a proposed ballot measure to institute formal legal recognition of all 229 Alaska Native Tribes by the State of Alaska, helping to lay the foundation for a positive, government-to-government relationship between state and tribal government. We also advocated for landless legislation introduced by Alaska’s congressional delegation to create urban corporations in Haines, Wrangell, Petersburg, Ketchikan and Tenakee, resolving a 50-year injustice stemming from the exclusion of those communities from the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). (You can sign a petition of support here.)
In 2021, we were incredibly fortunate to be able to provide more dividends, more programs and more of the positive results our shareholders care about. We hope to continue putting forward benefit programs and other projects that you prioritize in the coming year. Your voice is important, and we’d like to hear it even more often in monthly virtual meetings, on social media and by contacting us directly with your questions.
With your partnership and guidance, we are grateful to have been able to do the following in 2021:
- Sealaska contributed more than $500,000 to language-preservation programs, the second year of grants from our 10-year, $10 million language fund.
- We provided more than $18 million in dividends to shareholders in 2021, an increase of 139% since 2017.
- Shareholders voted to create the Sealaska Settlement Trust, which exempts shareholders distributions from federal tax. The first distribution from the trust was made in November.
- We rolled out our new brand, designed by Tsimshian master David R. Boxley (Gyibaawm Laxha). The design is based on a salmon egg, and illustrates both the realignment of our company around ocean health and Native values like reciprocity, generosity, optimism, celebration, humility and respect.
- Shareholders provided more input to Sealaska than ever before, sharing your views on topics such as workforce development, education and community investments. Through your participation in one of our many virtual events, our surveys, on social media or over the phone, you helped us understand your feelings on many important topics, such as the role blood quantum has on Native people.
- Sealaska partnered with the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska to distribute $4.2 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government. Along with $1.8 million generously contributed by Tlingit & Haida, we were able to offer $6 million in COVID-19 relief funding to eligible shareholders.
- Our annual donation to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) provided matching funds that they leveraged into upwards of $320 million in grants to support arts, language and scholarships that aided more than 400 students to help with their pursuit of educational success.
- Sealaska granted more than $1 million in scholarships in 2021.
As we close the year, we remain grateful for our hardworking employees, partners and communities. I am confident that, with our continued emphasis on balance, respect, curiosity and problem solving, next year will be successful as well.
Gunalchéesh, Haw’aa, T’oya̱xsut ‘nüüsm, and happy holidays to all of our shareholders and shareholder descendants.
We look forward to continuing to connect with you in the coming months, growing our engagement and forging lasting connections with all our shareholders. We wish each of you health, happiness and success in 2022.