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NativeCo News

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. CONTINUE »

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NativeCo News

Heather Kendall-Miller being considered by Obama Administration

February 21st, 2009 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments

Heather Kendall-MillerAs reported earlier in this blog, Heather Kendall-Miller was on the short list for a new, high level position in the Obama Administration.  Now, Indian Country writes that she has been offered the job and is currently being vetted.  Kenall-Miller is Athabascan and a Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) shareholder.

Heather Kendall-Miller’s life story is very interesting.  She dropped out of high school, married and started a family, lived in a remote cabin, went to Harvard and was friends with Barack Obama and argued in front of the US Supreme Court.  Some of that story is captured here.  This was taken from a Harvard Law Bulletin.

Heather Kendall-Miller ’91 took a winding road to Harvard Law School—and there were grizzlies and caribou along the way.

Kendall-Miller’s mother, a full-blooded Athabascan, met her father when he returned to Alaska after being stationed in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. But she died when her daughter was 2, cutting her off from her native roots.

Raised in Fairbanks, Kendall-Miller dropped out of high school and went to work on the Alaska Pipeline, homesteading in a remote valley in the mountains north of the Yukon River. At 17, she married, and she and her husband built a cabin on the land, heated it with water they piped in from a hot spring a quarter mile away.

“I look back fondly on those years,” Kendall-Miller recalls. “We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere and built our cabin in a beautiful valley in the Ray Mountains. It was a wonderful, magical place surrounded by grizzlies and caribou and moose. We had to fly in by float plane, air-drop our supplies over the cabin, and then land on a lake seven miles away and hike back to the cabin.”

Kendall-Miller became pregnant when she was 21 and lived in the cabin for another two years until her marriage collapsed. A single mother working construction on the Alaska Pipeline, she realized that her daughter needed a more stable life.

So at age 25, she enrolled at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, where she developed an interest in Native American rights. She graduated magna cum laude and, based on the recommendation of a professor, applied to Harvard Law School.

“I knew all along that I wanted to come back to practice in Alaska,” she says. “It was exciting to be around all these incredibly smart people who were so purposeful. I knew Harvard would give me the credentials I needed to focus my career the way I wanted to and help Native Alaskans when I got back.”

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NativeCo News

Don Young pulls “Prohibition on No-Bid Contracts” language from Stimulus Bill

February 17th, 2009 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments

Don YoungAccording to the Congressman’s news release “The Senate version of H.R. 1 (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.) included a provision that appeared to prohibit the use of programs administered by the SBA that are designed for procurement through minority-owned business enterprises, women-owned businesses, Veteran and Service Disabled Veteran programs, HUBZone and Small Business Administration 8(a) programs.  Rep. Young worked with Members on the other side of the aisle to make the case for these programs, and was able to get the provision pulled from the bill.

“I was approached by members of the Alaskan Federation of Native with concerns about this provision,” said Rep. Young.  “I told them that no matter if I supported this bill or not, I would make sure they were not hurt by it.  These programs are a success and are working just as Congress intended.

“These programs” include the successful ANC SBA 8(a) program.  Here is the actual provision removed.


Sec. 1608. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to make any payment in connection with a contract unless the contract is awarded using competitive procedures in accordance with the requirements of section 303 of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (41 U.S.C. 253), section 2304 of title 10, United States Code, and the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be awarded by grant or cooperative agreement unless the process used to award such grant or cooperative agreement uses competitive procedures to select the grantee or award recipient.

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NativeCo News

Alaska Native Corporations may lose advocate in Senator Stevens

October 29th, 2008 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments

The New York Times

October 30, 2008

Facing a Loss in Alaska

The Alaska Native corporations have had Senator Ted Stevens to thank nearly every step of the way.

In 1971, a few years after he was first elected to the Senate, Mr. Stevens helped write the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Also known as the “Billion Dollar Deal,” the act established more than 200 corporations to manage almost 45 million acres and gave $962 million to Alaska Natives in return for their ceding of all aboriginal land rights.

When the Alaska Native corporations struggled in their early years as they tried to turn people who had survived on fishing and hunting into business managers and to teach thousands of villagers to call themselves shareholders, Senator Stevens was there, too.

He helped corporations with financial difficulties by persuading Congress to approve a provision in the 1986 Tax Reform Act allowing the corporations to sell their accumulated tax losses to profitable companies seeking tax write-offs.

That same year, Senator Stevens introduced legislation that allowed Alaska Native corporations to participate in a Small Business Administration 8(a) contracting program, a provision that has proven lucrative to many of them.

And just a month ago, in the wake of questions that some of the corporations were misusing the contracting program, he successfully pushed Congress to remove a provision from the 2009 Defense Authorization Act that would have limited their access.

After his conviction on Monday on charges he violated federal ethics laws by failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and services he had received from friends, Senator Stevens’s future in Congress is uncertain.

But Louis A. Thompson, 72, who has run one of the corporations, Kavilco Inc., for 36 years, said the companies had grown into sophisticated operations that could stand on their own. “Senator Stevens was very helpful early on and not just to Alaska Native corporations, to all Alaskans,” he said. “But times have changed.”

Indeed, the Alaska Native corporations have made strides since the early days, when they built seafood plants before negotiating for fish deliveries and constructed hotels in remote villages that had never seen tourists. Today, they consistently rank among state’s largest businesses. The small-business 8(a) contracting program has been important to that success.

As of May, 187 Alaska Native-owned companies were participating in the 8(a) program, according to a report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General. From 2000 to 2006, Alaska Native corporations won nearly $13 billion in federal contracts.

Maver E. Carey, 41, the leader of one of those corporations, sees the federal contracts as the future of her business. And other small corporations are looking to her to help them navigate the complicated and expensive path to federal business.

Her enterprise, the Kuskokwim Corporation, represents Aniak and nine other remote Alaska communities. Its responsibilities cover a geographic area larger than New England, but without cellphone towers, major road systems or many jobs. “In Kalskag, one of our largest villages, there are 80 homes and 40 of them don’t have running water,” Ms. Carey said.

Kuskokwim’s 2,903 shareholders want regular corporate dividends, and many also seek educational and employment opportunities from the corporation.

Kuskokwim was founded in 1977 when 10 village corporations decided that they did not have the staff or resources to build businesses alone. The merged entity formed a headquarters in Anchorage and eked out dividends primarily through investments in Alaska real estate and a conservative portfolio of stocks and bonds.

Ms. Carey, whose maternal grandparents are Yupik Eskimo and Athabascan Indian, turned to Kuskokwim in 1994 after earning a college degree, working for an engineering firm and being laid off. “My village corporation offered me $9 an hour and I took it thinking I’d continue to look for a real job,” she said. By 2003, after she had worked in every corporate department, the board asked her to become the chief executive.

She pushed diversification, with a goal of building Kuskokwim’s shareholder equity to $100 million by 2015. Last year, it topped $18 million, up from $14 million in 2006. In 2005, the company started TKC Development Inc. to focus on federal contracting. TKC subsidiaries have won work from the United States Navy and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Last year, Ms. Carey started an Alaska Native village corporation association. Her inspiration came from conversations with other chief executives facing challenges similar to her own. A membership drive under way has registered about 50 Native corporation executives.

Their goal is to be as successful as the Afognak Native Corporation, one of Alaska’s largest businesses. Afognak is owned by 700 shareholders descended from the Alutiiq people of the Kodiak Archipelago. In 2006, its profits reached $18.8 million on revenue of $537.9 million, the latest figures available. That year, each shareholder received a dividend payment of $21,688. Afognak employs 5,000 people globally, and about 50 of them are shareholders.

Afognak is now run by a non-native chief executive with significant government experience. It won the first of its major contracts in 2000, when it secured a deal to operate Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. In recent years, it has won a contract to build a brigade combat team complex worth more than $100 million at Fort Bragg, N.C., and another worth more than $50 million to renovate the United States Embassy in São Paulo.

Still, there have been questions about the 8(a) contracts that have gone to Afognak and other Alaska Native companies. A 2006 study by the federal Government Accountability Office called for better S.B.A. supervision of Alaska Native corporations that hold 8(a) contracts. The agency’s inspector general is currently conducting an audit of S.B.A. oversight of 10 to 15 of the largest Alaska Native corporations engaged in federal contracting.

In August, it found that two companies, Goldbelt Raven L.L.C., owned by Goldbelt Inc. of Juneau, and APM L.L.C., a subsidiary of the Cape Fox Corporation of Ketchikan, violated terms of the contracting program by entering into agreements that resulted in millions of dollars in 8(a) revenues being paid to companies owned by non-native managers. The administration suspended them from the program and moved to end their eligibility. Both companies are appealing the move, according to officials representing Goldbelt and APM.

Steve Colt, the interim director at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at University of Alaska, who has studied Alaska Native corporations, said that many of the corporations struggled to stay afloat in their first two decades of operations and that Mr. Stevens and the rest of the Alaska delegation worked hard to keep them in business.

“If you look at the historical record, there were lots of incidents of Stevens being very helpful to Alaska Native corporations,” Mr. Colt said. “But I suspect that the number of assists has decreased over time.” He predicted that whoever holds the United States Senate seat for Alaska in the future will fight for legislation that protects Alaska Native corporations because they now have a major impact on the state’s economy.

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Julie Kitka defends success of SBA 8(a) program; asks ADN to retract editorial

October 16th, 2008 Posted By: Morgan Howard 2 Comments

Economy, Native businesses succeed together

An editorial in the Anchorage Daily News on Oct. 7 (“No-Bid Preferences”) irresponsibly indicts Alaska Natives for the alleged impropriety of two companies associated with a recent and isolated Food & Drug administration government contract.  It also illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of our history, the work of our business leaders and employees, our contribution to our country and the greater Alaska economy.

The U.S. Congress settled the land claims of Alaska Natives on Dec.18, 1971. The settlement was the largest, most complex Indian land settlement in the history of the United States. In addition to retaining 44 million acres of our original homeland, the Congress authorized Alaska Natives to organize and set up corporations to hold our land and resources. Our Native people were each issued 100 shares of stock in the newly formed Native corporations. We became shareholders and had to learn quickly what that meant and what the corporate structure was all about.

It is 37 years since the initial settlement and we have gained an incredible amount of experience with the corporate structure, with economic decision-making and competing in our rapidly changing capitalistic society. Over the years, we have made mistakes and we have learned. Now, many of our Native corporations are very successful. We have Alaska Native people at the helms of these economic engines. We are proud to contribute to both the Alaska and U.S. economy in significant ways.
The Anchorage Daily News editorial on government contracting was a huge disappointment to us. First of all, it tarred and feathered us all. It did not distinguish between our companies who are working hard and delivering real value and savings to the U.S. government — following the rules and exceeding government standards and expectations — and those few who may have made a mistake and must be accountable for their actions.

Congress authorized and required us to use corporations to implement our settlement. And Congress authorized Alaska Natives to participate in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Businesses Development Program. The purpose of the U.S. national Indian policy in the 8(a) program was to allow our businesses to participate in the work the government was contracting out to the private sector. It was to allow our Native shareholders to benefit from our successful completion of government work, which met strict standards. If we were not successful in delivering quality work on time, within budget and within appropriate standards to the government, we would not be successful in competing for other work. This 8(a) government contracting is not a handout.

In many ways, Alaska Native corporations cannot be compared to any other business in America. The U.S. Congress created a vast experiment in 1971 and its success and failures have never been fully documented.  When I talk to respected individuals around the world, they are amazed by what has happened with our land claims. For example, Hernando de Soto, a world renowned Peruvian economist told us this: “Alaska Natives are living proof that life is not a roll of the dice, harsh and brutal.  Government can set in place policies and structures to allow people to help themselves”. When de Soto told us this I was amazed — someone saw what was happening in Alaska. He saw how hard the Alaska Native community was working to make our land settlement a success; he saw how we have shaped the corporate structure with our own values and culture; and saw that we are a contributing member of society.

The 8(a) program is allowing Native Americans, including Alaska Natives, to help ourselves and contribute here in Alaska and across the country. Unlike other 8(a) businesses that are individually owned, Alaska Native corporations are charged with the monumental task of lifting entire communities — representing hundreds, and often thousands of disadvantaged individuals. Therefore, placing caps on awards Alaska Native corporations receive through the 8(a) program or eliminating our corporations’ ability to create subsidiaries with the 8(a) program would suffocate the ability of our corporations to build capacity and expertise which is needed to compete in the global economy and greatly reduce the dividends, scholarships and our efforts to lift our people out of poverty. It would turn the clock back on the very people our government reached out to help.

As with industry, Alaska Native corporations that do not follow the rules and regulations of the 8(a) program must be disciplined individually — not collectively.  The Anchorage Daily News’ advocacy for collective punishment of all our corporations would condemn the entire Alaska Native population to further reliance on the American taxpayer, rather than furthering the cause of self-determination and economic independence.

Alaska Native businesses support 20 percent of Alaska’s population. In 2006, they generated a combined payroll of $695.25 million to over 15,000 Alaska employees, over $1.11 billion in payroll to almost 40,000 employees worldwide, and paid over $60 million in federal taxes. Progress has been made, but much more must be done. Dramatic economic disparity between Alaska Natives and other Americans still exists and must be overcome. Disparities continue in education, in health and life expectancy, even infant mortality. The Alaska Native leadership is committed to doing everything we can to eliminate the disparity in life opportunities and create a chance for every child to have a healthy and productive future.

It is unfair and irresponsible for your paper to call for sweeping changes to a government initiative which is working. On behalf of the Alaska Native leadership, we ask the Anchorage Daily News to retract their editorial and provide us an opportunity to meet to discuss your concerns.
Julie Kitka is president of the Alaska Federation of Natives

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