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  1. Apr 2017
    1. Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971

      The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is a treaty in which the United States government granted the legal title to 44 million acres, along with the mineral rights of this territory in Alaska to Native peoples. The 44 million acres that went to Native Alaskans were picked by the Natives over a period of time. 22 million acres were to be picked by the 246 village corporations that were created through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and 16 million acres were set aside for certain regional corporations (Anders 1983). The United States government also gave Natives of Alaska $962.5 million (Hales and Goniwiecha, 1986). This $962.5 million was split between the United States federal government and the State of Alaska and was to be paid over eleven years to the Alaska Native Fund (Anders, 1983). The act additionally divided Alaska into twelve geographic regions in correspondence with the twelve Native associations formed prior to the land settlement. Each of these regions were considered regional corporations, so it actively brought Native people into the capitalistic world.

      With the money that these geographic regions received, a majority of the money went to villages that were located in each of these regions. This money was primarily used to survey the land for the villages land selection, which was vital to the villages’ futures (Berry, 240). This land selection could either mean disaster for their way of life or the prospect of a positive future. The land selection was so important due to the Natives claim to the minerals in their selected lands. Many of the villages hired biologists and geologist to give an accurate depiction of geographical and mineral information. Natives want to make sure that they were picking valuable pieces of land, so they could further profit off of their selection.

      However, as this land claim seemed generous to the Native peoples, it came with a number of areas of conflict. The first was the increased dependency on non-natives. Few Natives were capable of carrying out a number of the responsibilities laid out in the ANCSA, so non-Natives that were professionals in specific fields of Native responsibilities were hired. The next issue came from the competition between Native Corporations. Native Corporations found themselves competing over profitable investments based on their resource endowment and the conflict between renewable resources and resource extraction. A third issue that arose was the social stratification in the native communities. With the ANSCA, a new elite class of Corporate Natives were born. Their high-paying positions socialized these Natives in different was that made them seem less attentive to the concerns and daily conditions of the majority of rural Native Alaskans. This situation of social stratification was only magnified when more rural Native Alaskans moved to urban areas to take advantage of the newly created jobs through the ANSCA (Anders, 1983).

      Caption: Depiction of the regions created during the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971

      Source: National Parks Service

      Anders, Gary. 1983. "The Role of Alaska Native Corporations in the Development of Alaska." Development and Change 14 (4): 555-575. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7660.1983.tb00166.x.

      Berry, Mary Clay. 1975. The Alaska Pipeline : The Politics of Oil and Native Land Claims. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

      Hales, David A., and Mark C. Goniwiecha. 1986. "Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and National Interest Lands: Some Major Resources." Reference Services Review 14 (1): 35-40. doi:10.1108/eb048925.

    2. Klondike gold rush of 1898

      The Klondike gold rush is characterized by the vast movement of white prospectors through the Mackenzie Valley in pursuit of Yukon gold fields. This mass of white prospectors were primarily American. Prospectors primarily entered the valley through the Chilkoot Pass, which was a lower area of mountains that allowed prospectors to haul equipment into the valley. This movement elicited issues of land and border disputes that involved indigenous peoples and the United States and Canadian governments. Indigenous people lived on lands that were being entered by prospectors and the Canadian government wished to keep the northern territories peaceful for the use of extracting the valuable resource of gold. So, with the signing of Treaty 8 by Queen Victoria, First Nations from the Lesser Slave Lake area were displaced to an area roughly 840,000 square kilometers. With these actions of the Klondike Gold Rush and the signing of Treaty 8, “Americans and Britons successfully sought gold, displaced native groups, and lived together peaceably” (Arenson, 375-376).

      The second major issue that arose during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush was the dispute between Canadian and American lands. The disagreement occurred along the Alaskan Panhandle where the small towns of Dyea and Skagway were located. These vital port towns allowed access into the Yukon Territory (Petrakos, 366). The port towns were so valuable because they allowed people and supplies to pour into and out of the Yukon Territory. This being said, they were highly profitable, which increased tensions on the dispute over these towns. Canada feared that their land claims on the panhandle would be disregarded as the large migration of Americans to the panhandle area began to overrun the existing Canadian population present on the panhandle. This fear of disputed land spread into the Yukon gold fields as an excessive amount of Americans began to seek their Manifest Destiny. With this anxiety of American migration to the Klondike, the Canadian Government began to advocate for the movement of Canadian miners and the creation of Canadian infrastructure in the Yukon gold fields. This action came in hopes to increase the Canadian presence in the region and to bolster Canadians position in the Yukon Territory.

      As a second measure to solidify Canadian territory and the border between Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the Canadian Government dispatched, “the North-West Mounted Police into the territory to establish Canadian sovereignty. These mounted police not only brought law and order to the territory, they also successfully created a border point at the Chilkoot Pass. Chilkoot Pass was the main trail for those who came to the area through the port city of Dyea (Wharton, 1972). The deployment of Mounties was highly important because at the same time the United States had flooded the disputed territory with American troops to protect American claim on the territory. Overall, the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 was an important instance of Canadian-American border defining and the continued expulsion of aboriginal tribes for the extraction of natural resources.<br> Caption: The Chilkoot Pass in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Prospectors hike up the frigid pass often making multiple trips to haul all of their gear through the pass.<br> Source: Archives Canada

      Arenson, Adam. 2007. "Anglo-Saxonism in the Yukon: The Klondike Nugget and American-British Relations in the “Two Wests”; 1898-1901." Pacific Historical Review 76 (3): 373-404.

      Petrakos, Christopher. 2016. "William Ogilvie, the Klondike Borderlands and the Making of the Canadian West." The American Review of Canadian Studies 46 (3): 362-379.

      Wharton, David. 1972. The Alaska Gold Rush. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    3. James Bay Agreement

      The James Bay Agreement was signed in 1975 and was the first agreement on modern land claims under the new Canadian federal policy (Peters 1992). James Bay is located at the southern tip of the Hudson Bay. This large body of water is the ending point for many rivers and provides an abundant ecosystem for wildlife. The James Bay area is also inhabited by the Cree and Inuit Indian tribes, who use the ecosystem and the surrounding resources to survive and flourish. This territory was primarily left alone by the public and few were actually interested in this region (Ma et al., 2005). However, this all change when the territory’s hydroelectric potential was recognized in the 1960s, which brought in a flood of people. By 1971, the Quebec government began construction of the James Bay Hydroelectric Project on lands that were still controlled by aboriginal people. This project would result in the altering the course of 19 waterways and would create 25,900 km as reservoir. The Cree and Inuit tribes were so heavily opposed to the idea of this project because it would result in 11,500 km of their land being submerged. This 11,500 of land was still traditional used for aboriginal hunting and was a primary source of livelihood of the Cree and Inuit Indian tribes. The Quebec government toiled over the decision to build the project and finally decided to go ahead with it on the basis that the project would create tens of thousands of jobs and provide a new trade base for Quebec to export surplus energy.

      In the fall of 1972, native peoples applied for a halting of the construction in the James Bay region and by 1975 all construction had been halted. This eventually led to the James Bay Agreement that was signed in 1975. The James Bay Agreement included arrangements of compensation for those indigenous people displaced by the controlled flooding of their land and provided a list of federal and provincial commitments for the future of the north. The agreement ultimately gave Quebec jurisdiction over the land where they wished to build the James Bay Hydroelectric Project and opened the territory for economic development (Peters 1992). In the agreement, the Cree and Inuit were able to solidify their way of life by retaining access to the wildlife on most of the lands in that territory. Also, the settlement called for the encouragement of the Cree to continue harvesting wildlife through cash incentives in the form of an income-security program provided by the Quebec government (Asch, 1993). The Cree were also able to add a provision to the agreement that introduced the idea of creating economic development of “renewable, resource-based industries” (Peters 1992). Through the James Bay Agreement, aboriginal people’s flexibility to avoid or accommodate frontier activity and intrusion is clearly on display.

      Caption: A detailed map displaying boundaries and designated categorized lands of Native tribes after the James Bay Agreement and Northern Quebec Agreement.

      Source: Government of Canada

      Asch, Michael. 1993. Home and Native Land: Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian Constitution. Vancouver: UBC Press.

      Ma, Jing, Keith W. Hipel, and Mitali De. 2005. "Strategic Analysis of the James Bay Hydro-Electric Dispute in Canada." Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 32 (5): 868-880. doi:10.1139/l05-028.

      Peters, Evelyn J. 1992. "Protecting the Land Under Modern Land Claims Agreements: The Effectiveness of the Environmental Regime Negotiated by the James Bay Cree in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement." Applied Geography 12 (2): 133-145. doi:10.1016/0143-6228(92)90003-6.