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Donation to UAA library highlights passage of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:52 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An important part of the state’s history can now be seen at UAA/APU Consortium Library thanks to a gift from the Ted Stevens Foundation.

The foundation has donated a selection of photographs, maps and memos from the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to be permanently archived at the library.

The collection includes materials from the senator’s time in office between 1968 and 1972 when the Settlement Act was being fought. Foundation Executive Director Karina Waller said Stevens, who had recently been appointed to the senate following the death of Senator E.L. Bartlett in 1968, found himself right in the middle of it.

“One of the important things about this collection is it takes you on a journey,” Waller said. “So it shows you how the legislative process actually works.”

There are copies of bills that didn’t pass or were later amended, including some with handwritten notes. Letters from constituents at the time are included, as well as maps that showed the land Alaska Natives were claiming for their own.

One of the photographs in the collection shows a young Willie Hensley in Washington D.C. Hensley was one many Native leaders who went to the Capitol to help negotiate the terms of the settlement.

“We were trying to influence the final decisions of our delegation,” said Hensley on Wednesday, looking at the photo from 1971.

Hensley said the Settlement Act that passed in December of that year was definitely a compromise, but also a success for Alaska Natives whose land claims were officially settled.

“This collection represents a really key part of Alaskan history that’s affecting us today and will, you know, forever,” he said.

A guide to the collection is listed here.

People who would like to see the material must make an appointment with the library’s Archives and Special Collections.

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