Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act - Background

Background

In 1968, the Atlantic-Richfield Company discovered oil at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast, catapulting the issue of land ownership into headlines. In order to lessen the difficulty of drilling at such a remote location and transporting the oil to the lower 48 states, the best solution seemed to be building a pipeline to carry the oil across Alaska to the port of Valdez, built on the ruins of the previous town. At Valdez, the oil would be loaded onto tanker ships and sent by water to the contiguous states. The plan was approved, but a permit to construct the pipeline, which would cross lands involved in the native dispute, could not be granted until the Native claims had been settled.

With major petroleum dollars on the line, there was a new urgency for an agreement, and, in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by President Nixon, which abrogated Native claims to aboriginal lands. In return, they received up to 44 million acres (180,000 km2) of land and were paid $963 million. The land and money were divided among regional, urban, and village corporations. The settlement compensated the Natives for the collaborative use of their lands and opened the way for all Alaskans to profit from oil, one of the state's largest natural resources.

Read more about this topic:  Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

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