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Juneau, AK –- Sealaska applauded the recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Adjudication Branch decision regarding Redoubt Lake Falls near Sitka, Alaska. BLM reviewed and rejected a Color of Title claim submitted by Sheldon Jackson College claiming ownership of 160 acres at Redoubt Bay and Redoubt Lake. Sheldon Jackson’s claim had halted the potential conveyance of the property to Sealaska, who filed for ownership decades ago.
Sealaska identified 11 acres at Redoubt Lake in 1975 as an existing historic site under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The site is the traditional Tlingit fishing village of Kunáa, historically owned by the Kiks.ádi Clan. ANCSA Section 14(h)(1) provides regional corporations the right to select cemetery and historic sites that meet BLM criteria. This is the only federal provision that retains Native ownership of Native historic or cemetery sites.
“We are pleased with the outcome of BLM’s decision,” said Sealaska Lands Committee Chair Rosita Worl. “Our analysis of historic records did not support the claim by Sheldon Jackson College. We are pleased BLM has reached the same conclusion.”
“Just as the Tlingit people have always shared subsistence resources with each other, we now look forward to responsible non-commercial sharing of this resource with all subsistence users in Sitka,” said Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Chairman Michael Baines. “Now that the Bureau of Land Management has issued this sensible decision, we look forward to the eventual transfer of this land to Sealaska under ANCSA and the end of the litigation which has delayed the process.”
Sealaska signed an agreement with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) in 2012 to articulate management of historic and cemetery sites owned or sought by Sealaska within STA territory, including Redoubt Lake. The agreement provides guidance for tribal management of Kunáa. Use and management of the property must comply with land conveyance restrictions pursuant to ANCSA.
“This decision is a positive step for Sealaska, STA, and the residents of Sitka, and brings us closer to ensuring the site will remain a subsistence use site for all the local residents,” said Sealaska VP and General Counsel Jaeleen Araujo. “STA and Sealaska agree that public access to the site will remain for subsistence purposes. We want to be clear in assuring the public that this access will remain in place.”
Sealaska has listened to public testimony regarding the conveyance. Sitka residents were concerned they would not have access to the popular sockeye run. “Neither Sealaska nor STA are looking to prohibit access to this important subsistence resource,” said Araujo. “Sealaska supports access to resources that are important to shareholders and the communities.”