Sealaska Heritage Institute to sponsor lecture on pivotal lawsuit that affected Tlingit and Haida, land claims

Pictured: Sealaska Heritage Institute - Walter Soboleff Building.(Photo: Ken Graham, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Event free, open to the public

Event Announcement

Sealaska Heritage Institute 

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture on a pivotal lawsuit that affected both Tlingit and Haida citizens and the trajectory of the final settlement of all Alaska Native land claims under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971.

The lecture, The Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska v. United States, will be given by Chris E. McNeil, Jr., the owner of Native Strategy Group and former president and CEO of Sealaska.

The judgement that ensued from The Tlingit & Haida Indians of Alaska v. United States was a pivot point between the concept of a cash-only settlement of Indian land claims and a settlement that included returning aboriginal lands to Native people. Through the case, an ethnographic study was developed to prove the Tlingit and Haida claim to their homeland. The study was effectively used as a template for a later, seminal study that was commissioned by the United States Senate to demonstrate Alaska Native land needs for customary and traditional uses and economic development. 

The combination of the Tlingit and Haida judgment, which led to Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, also effectively invalidated the negative decision in an earlier case brought by the Tlingit Teeyhíttaan clan in which the United States Supreme Court held that the Indians did not have 5th Amendment rights for taking of Indian lands by the United States and that therefore, no compensation was due. The Tlingit and Haida judgement also was a fundamental assertion of tribal self-determination that was later transformed into law in the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act.

Pictured: Sealaska Heritage Institute Flyer, Native American Heritage Month 2019 Lecture Series.
Pictured: Sealaska Heritage Institute Flyer, Native American Heritage Month 2019 Lecture Series.(Image: Sealaska Heritage Institute)

McNeil is Tlingit and a member of the Nisga’a Nation. He is Eagle of the Dakl’aweidí (Killerwhale) House and his Tlingit name is Shaakakóoni. Originally from Juneau, he worked for Sealaska since 1978, holding various positions, including two terms as executive vice president and general council and one term on the board of directors. Prior to joining Sealaska, McNeil held numerous positions around the country, including Washington representative and counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, chairman of the Native American Rights Fund, director of American Indian Programs at Stanford University, director of Goldbelt, Inc., director of the American Indian National Bank, president of the Juneau Tlingit and Haida Community Council, chairman of the Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority and second vice president of the Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska. McNeil earned a law degree from Stanford University, a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Stanford University, and a master’s in political science from Yale University. 

The lecture is scheduled from noon-1 pm, Friday, November 1, at Sealaska Heritage’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lecture will be videotaped and put online shortly after the talk.

About Sealaska Heritage Institute 

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage Institute also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee. 

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