The modern treaty: protecting Alaska Native land, values
June 9, 2021
In 1969, a young Koyukon Athabascan woman stood before the U.S. House of Representatives, and described the life her community had been living on the banks of the Yukon River since time immemorial.
“For centuries [my mother, grandmother] and their forebears had lived in this country happily gaining their livelihood from the land,” Georgiana Lincoln testified. Her community had lived and worked within the region’s dense forests and rolling mountains for thousands of years. She was there to let lawmakers know how devastating it would be if this were to change.
When Alaska joined the union in 1959, many Alaska Natives still lived, worked, owned, and subsisted off their ancestral lands. This dynamic was becoming increasingly rare in North America. In the Lower 48 states, tribal law and treaty designations had evolved over two centuries — but this wasn’t the case in Alaska, where federal policy did not designate who owned what.