By Angela Denning – Alaska Coast
Sealaska Corporation shareholders voted to get rid of the quantum blood requirement for listing. The vote was counted at the annual meeting of shareholders on June 25 in Juneau.
Change means descendants of original shareholders no longer need to prove they have one–quarter of Native blood to become a shareholder, which was a requirement set by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.
“It was super exciting to see the vote,” said Angela Michaud.
Michaud is a member of the board of directors and was the first person to register after the vote. Previously, she only had a share donated by her grandmother. This new registration gives him 100 additional shares, which will last for his entire life.
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But she was especially delighted for her four children, who can also register when they are of age..
“When my kids turn 18, they’ll be part of this too,” Michaud said. “It means you can be a part of it and you are indigenous enough. It didn’t matter if your parents or your grandparents married someone who was not aboriginal. You are still indigenous.
ANCSA limited shares to registrants born before 1971. After that, descendants were to receive original shares or, beginning in 2007, obtain another class of shares called descendant shares. But they still had to prove a quarter of Native blood.
Board Chairman Joe Nelson says it’s an issue he’s heard a lot about from shareholders, which he also personally understands. While he was an original shareholder, his sister, born a few years later, was not. He calls the ANCSA’s 1971 deadline arbitrary and the blood requirement archaic.
“The issue of bloodline itself continues to literally divide families quite quickly and within a few generations the pool of eligible descendants would shrink,” Nelson said.
Now people only have to prove that they are descended from an original shareholder by means of a birth certificate.
Sealaska Corporation has 23,000 shareholders who are Lingít, Haida and Tsimshian peoples with roots in Southeast Alaska. Many now live elsewhere.
Not everyone agrees with the change. 40% of shareholders were not in favor of dropping the quantum blood requirement.
Vikki Mata was one of them. She is a former Vice President of Communications for Sealaska. She says the change devalues dividends and shareholder voting power.
“If you add more shareholders, the voting strength of current shareholders is diluted,” Mata said.
Mata is a director of the social media group, Shareholders of Sealaska, which has 6,000 members. She says many dissenters agreed that the issue of how much blood should be discussed. But she says the vote was rushed – shareholders had 6 weeks to consider the issue – and the timing was wrong.
“Food prices, gas prices, everything hits at once, so every dollar counts to make ends meet, especially those on fixed incomes and our seniors,” she said.
Sealaska shareholders receive dividends twice a year. The shares of origin yield more than those attributed to the descendants. This is due to a formula for sharing natural resource revenues among regional Aboriginal corporations.
The company predicts that around 15,000 shareholders over a 20-year period would be eligible to register with the relaxed requirements.
Sealaska Corporation is the third of Alaska’s 12 regional Native societies to eliminate the blood count requirement.
This story originally appeared on Coast Alaska/KNBA. Republished by Native News Online with permission.
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