Sealaska’s Shareholder Participation Committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution in support of the removal of blood quantum from Sealaska’s eligibility requirements when it met the week of June 6 in Juneau.
Sealaska shareholders will decide this month whether applicants should have to prove they have at least one-quarter Alaska Native blood quantum to qualify for Class D (Descendant) stock.
The Sealaska Shareholder Participation Committee was established in 2019 to help better connect Sealaska with its shareholders. There are three chapters of the committee, representing shareholders in Southeast Alaska, those located elsewhere in Alaska, and those living outside Alaska. Action was taken by the collective group made up of all three chapters.
This is the first time the committee has passed or even discussed a resolution of this kind — previous resolutions concerned meeting frequency and other administrative details.
“It wasn’t on our agenda, it just came up as we were discussing various issues impacting Sealaska,” said the chair of the “Other Alaska” chapter of the SPC, Penny Gage of Anchorage. “We all felt compelled to act. It was exciting to see the diversity of people coming together to voice their support.”
Mary Edenshaw is a member of the Southeast Alaska committee. She said many families have mixed heritage for all kinds of reasons, including boarding schools, adoption and military service.
“My mother had to go to boarding school at Mount Edgecumbe, my grandma went to Chemawa (Indian School). My dad is from Oklahoma City — they met at Haskell (Indian Nations University),” Edenshaw said. “It affects me. It affects my kids as well.”
The resolution would strike language in the current definition of who qualifies for Class D stock to eliminate the blood quantum requirement. Applicants would still have to meet the more rigorous standard of proving a direct lineal relationship with an original shareholder through birth certificates, Social Security numbers and other official paperwork.
The Sealaska board approved the motion to advance the resolution to shareholders because they felt the time was right to throw off another vestige of a flawed relationship with the federal government that was based in theft of land and countless lies and misrepresentations. Blood quantum requirements have been identified as a tool used by the federal government to help extinguish treaty obligations to Native people — the fewer Natives who qualify as “Native enough,” to meet the threshold, the less the federal government owes to future generations.