Alaska Native Regional Corporations Investing in Alaska
Created pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA), Alaska Native regional corporations are organized as for-profit corporations. While Alaska Native regional corporations are for-profit businesses, they operate according to the guiding principles of Alaska Native values in the ways they manage their lands, resources, and investments to generate economic opportunities. Similar to many other for-profit corporations, they pay annual dividends to their shareholders; but Alaska Native regional corporations also use their revenues to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of their shareholders. Alaska Native regional corporations invest in their people and communities through contributions focused on social, health, cultural, and educational services.
The passage of ANCSA had effects that reached far beyond Alaska Native people. By creating Alaska Native-owned, for-profit corporations, ANCSA brought additional economic diversity to the state that has benefited all Alaskans, either directly or indirectly. ANCSA brought added value to the economy of the State of Alaska, the federal government, and the private sector.
Alaska Native regional corporations enrich the lives of their shareholders and descendants, communities, and regions in various ways. Each Alaska Native regional corporation engages in ways that align with its unique mission and business models. What follows are simply a few examples.
Empowering Shareholders and Communities
ANCSA mandated that Alaska Native corporations operate as for-profit businesses. Alaska Native corporations meet this mandate and go beyond by using their revenues to provide monetary and non-monetary benefits to their shareholders, descendants and Alaska Native communities.
A few short years after the ANCSA legislation was signed into law, Alaska Native regional corporations began distributing dividends to their shareholders. The first dividends paid out to individual shareholders of Alaska Native regional corporations were between $20 and $200 (per 100 shares). Since the first dividends, Alaska Native regional corporations’ revenues have grown. In FY 2018, Alaska Native regional corporations distributed dividends to individual shareholders between $300 and $3,700 (per 100 shares) and have collectively distributed more than $3 billion in dividends to their Alaska Native shareholders.
Just as the dividend distributions have grown, so has the number of enrolled Alaska Native shareholders. The original enrollment in Alaska Native regional corporations was just greater than 64,000 Alaska Native shareholders. By FY 2018, the number of enrolled shareholders was more than 138,000. Since the 1991 amendments to ANCSA, which allowed for expansion of shareholder eligibility, Alaska Native regional corporations have correspondingly expanded their business operations to continue returning meaningful benefits back to their growing number of shareholders.
Providing benefits beyond dividends to Alaska Native people is part of the identity of all Alaska Native regional corporations. The twelve Alaska Native regional corporations exhibit some similarities in how they provide non-dividend benefits to their shareholders and descendants. However, each Alaska Native regional corporation engages with their shareholders, descendants, and communities in a way that is reflective of both their individual business operations and their specific Alaska Native cultural values.
Educational Scholarships, Internships, and Careers
All Alaska Native regional corporations made long-term investments in creating an informed, educated, and a ready Alaska Native workforce for generations to come. Between 1977 and 1993, each of the twelve regional corporations chose to provide the initial financial investment to create separate non-profit foundations to support the advancement of the educational endeavors of their shareholders and descendants. To date, the twelve education foundations have awarded more than 54,000 individual scholarships to Alaska Native shareholders and descendants, totaling more than $100 million for Alaska Native people to pursue various educational endeavors.
Most Alaska Native regional corporations also have internship programs in place, typically intended for high school and college student shareholders. The internship programs introduce shareholders and descendants to various types of business operations and future employment opportunities. Internship programs expand participants’ awareness of long-term career opportunities in Alaska Native corporations and the broader business community.
The passage of certain federal laws allows Alaska Native corporations to practice shareholder hiring preference. Alaska Native regional corporations offer employment opportunities, including full-time, part-time, and internships with preferences for shareholders and descendants.
As Alaska Native regional corporations expand business operations, there
Some Alaska Native regional corporations invest in culture camps to ensure that traditional Alaska Native ways of life carry forward. Culture camps teach current and future generations a working knowledge of cultural and traditional practices.
There are 20 distinct Alaska Native languages, but according to the Alaska Native Language Center (https://www.uaf.edu/anlc/) only one is spoken by children as a first language. In response, some Alaska Native regional corporations have invested heavily in language revitalization and preservation, recognizing the importance of teaching future generations their Alaska Native languages.
Burial and Funeral Support
The sheer size of Alaska and lack of transportation infrastructure create challenges for rural residents faced with the loss of a loved one. Acknowledging the challenges across rural Alaska, many Alaska Native regional corporations offer financial support for burial and funeral expenses to families of deceased shareholders and descendants. Support funds can be used for burial, funeral, and travel for family members to attend the funeral.
Non-profit organizations address some of the specific challenges and opportunities that Alaska Native people in each region are facing. Some Alaska Native regional corporations put an emphasis on contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, to non-profit entities that bring value to the communities and causes in their region.
Strengthening Alaska’s Economy
In the nearly 50 years since their creation by Congress, Alaska Native regional corporations have grown from their humble beginnings to become an integral part of the Alaska economy. Alaska Native regional corporations operate in a variety of industries,
The purpose of ANSCA Section 7(i) is to address the differences in natural resource wealth between the twelve regions. While Section 7(i) was intended to create an economic leveling effect among Alaska Native regional corporations, its impacts reach far beyond the intended recipients. In FY 2015, Section 7(i) distributions represented $352 million in total economic activity, including an estimated 2,300 to 2,800 jobs.
Alaska Native regional corporations also contribute to statewide non-profit entities that serve all Alaskans. Contributions to these non-profit organizations are an investment in people and programs that broadly enhance Alaska. In FY 2017 Alaska Native regional corporations contributed over $17 million to non-profit organizations that support youth development, workforce development, health and humanitarian services, arts and culture, and more.