The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH
This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. It involves the construction of Section 7(c) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, 85 Stat. 688 et seq. (1971), 43 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1624, which provides for an election to determine whether a thirteenth region for non-resident Alaska Natives shall be established, and it involves the procedures of the Department of the Interior in carrying out the election.
Plaintiffs are two organizations for Alaska Natives residing in States other than Alaska: the Alaska Native Association of Oregon (ANAO) and the Alaska Federation of Natives, International (AFNI), and ten non-resident Alaska Natives. Defendants are the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and its agencies which are responsible for the implementation of the Act, and two intervenor defendants, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), an organization which represents ten of the twelve Alaska regional corporations, and the Aleut Corporation, one of the twelve regional corporations.
In order to put the two legal issues before the Court in perspective, it is first necessary to review the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (the Act), especially that portion dealing with an election to determine whether a thirteenth region for non-resident Alaska Natives shall be established, and then describe the history of the election process.
The purpose of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act is to meet the "immediate need for a fair and just settlement of all claims by Natives and Native groups of Alaska, based on aboriginal land claims."
"'Native' means a citizen of the United States who is a person of one-fourth degree or more Alaska Indian. . . ."
The Act declares that all such claims are extinguished
and, as part of the legislative settlement, establishes an Alaska Native Fund (the Fund), which consists of $962,400,000 to be distributed to the Natives as part of the compensation for their claims.
Pursuant to the Act, the State of Alaska was divided into twelve geographic regions "with each region composed as far as practicable of Natives having a common heritage and sharing common interests."
Regional Corporations for each of these twelve regions were thereafter established.
Each region was further subdivided into villages, and Village Corporations were established.
The Regional Corporations are the conduits through which the monies from the Fund are distributed to the Village Corporations and to the Natives who are stockholders of the corporations.
For the purpose of enrolling Natives in the various regions, the Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a roll of all living Alaska Natives by December 18, 1973.
The roll was to show where each Native resided on the date of the 1970 census enumeration, and, if the Native was a permanent resident of Alaska, he was to be enrolled in the corresponding region in Alaska.
The Act also provided that a thirteenth region and regional corporation would be established
Therefore a non-resident Native might elect to be enrolled in one of the twelve Alaska regions or in a thirteenth region for non-resident Natives.
The thirteenth region, if established, would consist only of those non-resident Natives who had voted in favor of a thirteenth region.
If a thirteenth region were not established by a majority vote, each non-resident Native, regardless of his vote, would then be enrolled in one of the twelve Alaska regions
as one of "the class of stockholders who are not residents of . . . villages."
After completion of the enrollment process, the money in the Fund "shall be distributed at the end of each three months of the fiscal year among the Regional Corporations . . . on the basis of the relative numbers of Natives enrolled in each region."
Non-resident Natives enrolled in a thirteenth region, if established, would receive not less than 50 percent of their per capita share of the amount distributed to their thirteenth Regional Corporation from the Fund.
Non-resident Natives enrolled in one of the twelve Alaska regions would receive from that Regional Corporation not less than 45 percent during the first five-year period following December 18, 1971, and 50 percent thereafter of their per capita share of the amount distributed to their Regional Corporation from the Fund, and also their per capita share of "all other net income" of that Corporation.
Such "other net income" specifically includes that income derived from the Corporation's own investments and resource development and also its proportionate share of 70 percent of all Alaska Regional Corporations' revenues from timber resources and subsurface estates.
an equitable portion of the amount distributed as dividends [to non-village-resident stockholders] may be withheld [by the Corporation] and combined with Village Corporation funds to finance projects that will benefit the region generally.
It is the opinion of the plaintiffs, who are seeking the establishment of a thirteenth region, that non-resident Natives would receive more money in dividends through a thirteenth regional corporation, even though such a corporation's income would be limited to the Fund, because money distributed through the twelve Regional Corporations would be deflected from the stockholders to projects to benefit the local region. Obviously, non-resident Natives would not benefit from such local projects.
The defendants think that the additional income from the regions' resource development would more than compensate for any funding of local projects out of the Fund so that non-resident Natives would receive more money in dividends by belonging to one of the twelve Regional Corporations. The Court expresses no ...