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ANCSA History -Mo & Stewart Udall

September 23rd, 2009 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments

Mo_UdallAs readers of this blog may know, the Udall brothers were instrumental in the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).  Terrence Bracy was a legislative assistant to Congressman Udall from 1966-1976.  Mr. Bracy tells about the experience in a speech given to Udall Scholars, August 8, 2009.

When Alaska was granted statehood in 1959, federal lands were parceled out to competing claimants. But the aboriginal land claims of the Alaskan Natives—the state’s most disenfranchised population—were ignored.
Several years later, there was a huge oil discovery on the State’s North Slope which caused the oil giants to approach then Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall for permits and the right-of-way to build the controversial Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Conservationists objected, but it was obvious that they were not destined to win. There was too much oil and too much attendant political power on the scale. When the oil industry approached Stewart, he was ready. He told them he had an open mind, but there was a serious issue no one had taken into account: the unsettled claims of the Alaskan Native tribes. How could he dedicate lands which were still under legal dispute?
In 1968, Secretary Udall performed the greatest demonstration of political judo I have ever witnessed. He announced a freeze on all Alaskan lands until the Native claims were settled. All of a sudden, the great political weight of the commodity world was thrown behind the heretofore neglected claims of the tribes.
The oil lobbyists soon landed in the office of Stewart’s brother, Congressman Mo Udall, an effective young legislator and a bridge to the environmental community. I was his legislative assistant, and I spent much of the next two years helping shape compromises which would allow Mo to pass the Alaska Native Claims Act of 1971. Today, most of the Alaskan native Corporations created by the Act are great success stories.
There is a story about the first day of committee markup that has always stayed with me. As the Committee was assembling, I was waived to the front by a senior Southerner, a fellow who always liked to be on the winning side of a vote. “Terry, do we in fact have the votes to pass this bill?” he inquired. “Yes, sir,” I assured him. “Well then go and tell Morris he can have my vote . . . and Terry, what IS an aboriginal?” Such was the limited knowledge and interest in Native rights in those days.
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