The Tanana Chiefs were the original Leaders in the Doyon Region
Beginning in 1915, Tribal Chiefs within the region began to organize in order to protect their land and resources. Tired of the government encroaching on their traditional homelands, the Chiefs organized a meeting to denounce the construction of the Alaska Railroad on traditional burial grounds in Nenana. This meeting marked the start of a formal relationship with Athabascan Tribes and the United States government, leading to the Chief’s clear expression regarding their priorities to sustain their villages through employment, education, health care, and land protection specifically for subsistence and access management.
As statehood for Alaska approached in 1959, so did mounting tensions surrounding land claims. The need to organize became increasingly dire, as the newly formed government began the process of land selection with complete disregard for pre-existing Native land ownership, subsistence, and access.
Driven to act on behalf of his people, Al Ketzler, Sr. of Nenana helped to organize a meeting of 32 villages in Tanana during 1962. Flying to Washington D.C. with a petition signed by 24 villages in hand, Ketzler, Sr. organized a statewide coalition of Alaska Native leaders that would eventually become known as the Tanana Chiefs Conference, banding together to protect Alaska Native land rights. This led to the Secretary of the Interior freezing state land selections until the issue of Native land claims was settled in 1966.
The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) was the next organization to be formed. The Tanana Chiefs Conference representatives and over 400 Alaska Native people from 17 Native organizations gathered in Anchorage for a 3-day conference to address Alaska Native aboriginal land rights. AFN became a unified voice for all Alaska Natives in the fight for land claims and led to all land conveyances in Alaska to be frozen until the issue of land claims was resolved.
The initial meeting of the Tanana Chiefs was monumental for Alaska Native advocacy and established the pathway to one of the largest land claims settlements in United States history.
The Largest Land Claims Settlement of the Age
The discovery of commercial quantities of oil on the North Slope elevated the land claims debate in the late 60s, as the prospect of oil exploration and development was put on hold due to Alaska Native land freezes throughout the state. Coming from the state and oil industry, in addition to the Alaska Native people, the pressure for Congress to reach a land claims settlement was at an all-time high.
After years of debate, compromise, and frequent travels to and from D.C by Alaska Native leaders, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) on December 18, 1971. This extinguished aboriginal land titles in Alaska and awarded 44 million acres of land and $962.5 million to more than 200 villages and 13 regional corporations.
ANCSA was a system that redefined federal Indian policy, and mandated that both regional and village corporations be owned and enrolled by Alaska Native shareholders ─ placing corporate ownership into the hands of Alaska Natives.
Doyon was incorporated in 1972 and composed of the original Tanana Chiefs who began the unprecedented task of selecting 12 million acres of land for their people.
While holding the largest amount of land out of all of the regional Alaska Native Corporations, Doyon leadership took upon the monumental task of analyzing what lands would be exemplary for future development, considering traditional sites, and mapping out subsistence areas for land selections.
These were all integral parts to the land selection process upon which no one prior to ANCSA had the responsibility of considering. Now, with the prosperity of Doyon shareholders at the whim of the corporation’s success, Doyon, along with the other regional ANC’s, had to learn quickly and efficiently what it meant to be an existing for-profit corporation in the modern world.
Success Through Transformation
Driven to this day by and for its shareholders, Doyon, Limited has adapted and continually redefines what it means to be an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC). Serving to enhance our position as a financially strong Native corporation, Doyon maintains the integrity of our humble beginnings, while aggressively pursuing new ventures and innovations that result in the prosperity of our lands, people, and culture. Over the years we have grown to become a leader among the top Alaska Native regional corporations, but we always look back to the initial pioneers who worked to get us where we are today.
From dividends to education, career development, and culture camps, Doyon has impacted the lives of many shareholders and contributes an economic diversity to the state that benefits all Alaskans. In the half century since ANC’s were incorporated, we have become an integral part of the Alaska economy, generating jobs and subsidiary partnerships that enhance the value of the region and bring prospects in from across the states.
Rising to the challenge that comes with working within the interior of Alaska, Doyon is dedicated to being a leader in all we do; striving to make each year better than the last and continually being a pillar of strength and resiliency for the interior of Alaska ─ Past, Present, and Future.