Blurred Lines: A Personal Exploration of Identity, Alaska Native Corporations and Going Beyond the 'Incidentally Indigenous'
At it’s passage in 1971, the Alaska Native Claims and Settlement Act (ANCSA), was viewed as the most liberal and generous settlement ever achieved between the United States government and an Indigenous peoples. Forty-three years later it is evident that the ANCSA, though promising at the time, was intended to be yet another extension of colonialism. The ANCSA’s provisions seek to control Alaska’s indigenous peoples and their lands by denying their rights to hold title to their own lands. One such provision imposes regional and village formed corporations rather than peoples hold this right. In this paper I explore how these corporations have complicated notions of Alaskan Native belonging and identity through the formation of an entirely new classification of Alaskan Native: the corporate shareholder. Through an analysis of my own personal experience and Taiaiake Alfred and Jeff Corntassel’s concept of the “incidentally Indigenous” person, I analyze the production of the corporate Native shareholder. I argue that the formation of such an identity comes with many complications for Alaskan Native peoples dividing communities based on colonial constructions of “authenticity.” While such identities may pose problems, such a category also presents a unique opportunity for increased cultural awareness and support of Alaska Native’s decolonization and cultural revitalization projects. By confronting these identity issues, I hope to “blur the lines” of political-economic categories of identity and help others remember that for Alaska Natives, culture is not remembered but lived; and is not expressed through genes but through action.