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Thirteenth Native corporation looks to Congress for land

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Unlike Alaska's other 12 Native corporations, the 13th Regional Corp. was not granted any land under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Now, 30 years later the corporation is trying to remedy that by submitting a bill to Congress asking for a million acres.

The 13th Regional Corp. is a melting pot of shareholders who originated from all parts of Alaska, but most of whom live in the Lower 48. It was formed in 1975 and is based in Seattle. There currently are about 5,500 shareholders.

Norm Ream, president of the 13th Regional, said a bill will be submitted this spring through Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' office asking Congress for approval to stake claim to the land.

Under ANCSA, $962.5 million and 43 million acres of land were given to Alaska Natives through regional corporations. The amount given to each corporation was determined on the basis of land area within their regions. The 13th Corp.'s share under ANCSA was determined by the number of shareholders, at about $27 million.

At that time, the original 12 Native corporations did not support land claims for the 13th, nor did most political figures or those at the Alaska Federation of Natives, Ream said.

Officers of the 13th region first tried in 1978 to submit a proposal to acquire lands under the federal act, but that effort failed.

''I've studied the original proposal and looked at the problems with it,'' Ream said. ''It should have failed. It was not thorough and it had no support.''

In this attempt, Ream said the corporation now has a nod of approval from the other Native regional corporations, AFN and the state government.

Shareholders of the 13th have been left out of many of the benefits offered to shareholders of the other corporations within the state. They also have not received the whirlwind of dividend checks from their corporation's assets. In 1985, the company's last physical asset, an oil company in Cold Bay, shut down. Losses were in the millions.

Since Ream was named president in 1994, the corporation has turned a profit in every year but one. It now has the Mailboxes Etc. franchise in southwest Washington state and Oregon, and maintains a small construction business. Last June, shareholders got their first dividend in 11 years, $50 for the average person with 100 shares of stock.

If Congress approves its land claim proposal, Ream said the corporation plans to avoid lands that are environmentally sensitive, which includes all of Southeast Alaska because of the raging timber battles. Board members also plan to stay away from lands under dispute between other corporations and the state. The 13th Corp. will divide 15 percent of all revenues between the original 12 regional corporations. An additional 5 percent will go to the regional corporation from which the resources originated.

''We want to be full participants in the Alaska community,'' Ream said.



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