Haida rejects Sitka Tribe of Alaska appeal

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

SITKA (AP) -- The Haida Corp. has rejected an appeal from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska to choose other lands than those in Sitka Sound.

The corporation says the appeal has came too late.

Sitka Tribal Council Chairman Woody Widmark in a letter to Haida Chairman Sidney Edenshaw offered to help find alternate lands closer to Haida Corp.'s homeland, 150 miles south of Sitka.

''It is too late in extended effort,'' Edenshaw responded by letter on Friday. ''And it is too late in financial outlay.''

Edenshaw also said in a letter that if the city tried to restrict uses of the selected lands by rezoning them he would move to have those efforts invalidated.

The Hydaburg-based Native corporation first announced in 1996 that it had selected Forest Service land in a group of islands north of Sitka, and also a tract near Silver Point, south of Sitka.

The corporation is allowed to select land under the authority of the Haida Land Exchange Act of 1986. The act was passed by Congress to correct inequalities in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the city have objected to the selection, citing their importance to recreation and subsistence, as well as their proximity to important Tlingit cultural sites.

The tribal council on Sept. 13 asked the Haida Corp. to take another look at lands in the Prince of Wales Island area. The council also offered to extend the deadline for making the land selection to give Haida more time.

Edenshaw said Haida Corp. had repeatedly been frustrated over a six-year period in its attempts to select land, but was finally able to find land agreeable to the U.S. Forest Service in the Sitka area.

''Our view is that it is simply far too late in the land selection process for anyone seeking legislative changes,'' Edenshaw wrote in his letter.

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