The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, commonly abbreviated ANCSA, was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 18, 1971, the largest land claims settlement in United States history. ANCSA was intended to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding aboriginal land claims in Alaska, as well as to stimulate economic development throughout Alaska. The settlement extinguished Alaska Native claims to the land by transferring titles to twelve Alaska Native regional corporations and over 200 local village corporations. A thirteenth regional corporation was later created for Alaska Natives who no longer resided in Alaska.
In 1968, the Atlantic-Richfield Company discovered oil at Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast, catapulting the issue of land ownership into headlines. In order to lessen the difficulty of drilling at such a remote location and transporting the oil to the lower 48 states, the best solution seemed to be building a pipeline to carry the oil across Alaska to the port of Valdez, built on the ruins of the previous town. At Valdez, the oil would be loaded onto tanker ships and sent by water to the contiguous states. The plan was approved, but a permit to construct the pipeline, which would cross lands involved in the native dispute, could not be granted until the Native claims had been settled.
With major petroleum dollars on the line, there was a new urgency for an agreement, and, in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by President Nixon, which abrogated Native claims to aboriginal lands. In return, they received up to 44 million acres (180,000 km²) of land and were paid $963 million. The land and money were divided among regional, urban, and village corporations. The settlement compensated the Natives for the collaborative use of their lands and opened the way for all Alaskans to profit from oil, one of the state's largest natural resources.
Effect of Land Conveyances
ANCSA and related legislation produced changes in ownership of about 148,500,000 acres (601,000 km2) of land in Alaska once controlled by the Federal Government. That is larger by 6,000,000 acres (24,000 km2) than the combined areas of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
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