In December 1971, Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, a historic measure intended to resolve the long-standing issue of aboriginal land claims in Alaska. ANCSA had another purpose, to create a mechanism for economic development in Alaska, particularly in rural areas. It was Congress intent that Alaska Native people, the shareholders of private corporations created by the Act, would guide this development.

Bristol Bay Native Corporation, one of 12 Native-owned regional corporations created in Alaska by ANCSA, played a key part in the effort to secure passage of the Claims Act.

Under the 1971 Act, Congress created the 12 regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations. A 13th corporation, based in Seattle, Washington, also was formed. Both land and cash were involved in the settlement. The corporations were formed to receive approximately 45 million acres of land transferred from federal to private ownership and to manage investment of $962 million appropriated by Congress as the cash part of the settlement. An exception to this is that the 13th corporation received no land.

Quick Facts: Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) settled long-standing land issues in Alaska between state and federal governments, and the aboriginal peoples who had lived in the territory for generations. ANCSA created regional and village corporations. The federal government relinquished title to 44 million acres of land and paid the corporations nearly $1 billion. The settlement opened the way for the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

Here are a few of ANCSA’s most significant provisions and key terms:

Provision Summaries

SEC. 7(i): Revenue sharing.

SEC. 8: Establishes village corporations.

SEC. 11(a): Village corporation land selections.

Section 12 allocated land to Alaska Native village and regional corporations:

SEC. 12(a): Surface and subsurface rights.

SEC. 12(b): How and how much land is allotted.

SEC. 12(c): Remaining allotments determined.

SEC. 14(c): Order of conveying lands.

SEC. 14(f): Villages consent rights regarding regional subsurface exploration.

SEC. 14(h)(1): Title to cemeteries, historical sites. SEC. 14(h)(2): Non-qualifying villages and land conveyance.

SEC. 14(h)(1-7): Sets aside unreserved and unappropriated land.

SEC. 17(b): Establishes planning commission.

ANCSA Terms and Definitions

Alaska Native - A U.S. citizen of at least one-quarter Alaska Indian, Eskimo or Aleut blood. Also, a citizen whose Native village classifies him as Native or whose biological or adoptive parent is Native.

Patent - Title to land acquired by the federal government through treaties.

Site control - Permission for use of another’s land (i.e. deed, lease, easement).

Surface - On the surface or above.

Subsurface - Below the surface. Includes gravel or minerals.

Township - A square unit measure of land.

Townsite - Land surveyed under federal townsite laws; assumes a community could form or expand. Village - community or association with at least 25 Alaska Natives during the 1970 census.

For more information:

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Resource Center

Sponsored by Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP, this site provides an in-depth look at ANCSA, with links to the law, the amendments and related legislation. 

ANCSA Regional Association

The official Association of Alaska Native Regional Corporation CEOs. 

University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Knowledge Network

Links to information related to ANCSA, including articles, audio interviews and curriculum.