Western Washington is home to approximately 10,000 Alaska Natives of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian descent. Many of us own shares in Alaska Native corporations that were established in 1972 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Rather than tribes like Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska owning land, the federal government set up a system where land would be owned by for-profit corporations in Alaska and everyone alive in 1972 who was at least 1/4 degree blood received 100 shares. There are 12 active regional corporations and many village corporations.
The corporation that many Alaska Natives living in the South Sound have is the Sealaska Corporation. Currently there is an opportunity for shareholders to change the direction of Sealaska by voting your proxy for the four board of directors seats that are currently open.
If you have not already done so, you should vote. The annual shareholder meeting will be held on Saturday, June 28, at the DoubleTree by Hilton at Seattle Airport, 18740 International Blvd.
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Sealaska has incurred a net loss of $35 million dollars in the most recent fiscal year. Many shareholders depend on the small distribution they receive twice a year from Sealaska. The last distribution was only possible because of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) law that requires that other corporations share a portion of their profits with all ANCSA corporations.
While Sealaska is not a tribe, many shareholders feel a sense of pride in being part of a Native corporation. Until recently, the only lens into the corporation has been through the official Sealaska channels. Social Media users, specifically Facebook, can find groups created by shareholders who are interested in much needed change from a stale, unsuccessful way of doing business.
There are two official proxies, the green proxy featuring a slate of four shareholders for Sealaska ( http://www.sealaska4.org/) who have the collective sense of experience and seriousness to make Sealaska a company that does business from both a smart perspective and one that respects the land it has. The Sealaska Blue Proxy has an array of independent candidates you should consider.
Cast your share votes only for independent candidates and not the official Sealaska slate of candidates. Talk to your family and friends who are shareholders. ANCSA was a strange deal for Alaska Natives, but it is our reality. Don’t squander your vote.
Laura Grabhorn is a Lacey resident.