Resolution Introduced at 2017 AFN Regarding 14(c)(3) Lands
At the 2017 Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention, a resolution was introduced by Chenega Corporation regarding 14(c) lands. The village corporations raised many questions regarding this resolution, which was not discussed with the village corporations prior to introduction. It was agreed that this resolution would be tabled for further discussion at the next AFN board of directors meeting on December 5, 2017.
The resolution, numbered 17-21, is titled “Lands in Alaska Native Villages Being Held in Trust by the State of Alaska under Sec. 14(c)(3) of ANCSA.” This resolution calls for the Municipal Lands Trustee (MLT) “to use authority under AS 44.33.733(b)  and 3 AAS 190.410  – 190.490  to work for Tribal Council and the Corporation to ensure a smooth and effective return of the 14(c)(3) lands to the appropriate Native entity to manage in what they determine to be their own community’s best interest.”
The MLT program in the Division of Community Advocacy (DCA) performs the functions required by federal and state law. This responsibility for accepting and administering municipal trust land is assigned to the Department of Community and Economic Development by state law (AS 44.33.755). The operation of the MLT program is guided by administrative regulation (3 AAC 190.010 – 194.900).
These regulations contain requirements for accepting land transferred under ANCSA 14(c)(3). Those steps include:
- The MLT program consults local residents to identify ANCSA 14(c)(3) land. This may be through village meetings or through a representative group speaking for the village. The representative group is called the “appropriate village entity” (AVE).
- After 14(c)(3) land is conveyed to the state in trust, land management decisions are made with advice from the local people.
- The MLT must receive approval from the AVE before making land decisions.
- All of the ANCSA village corporations receive their land entitlements by a patent (or interim conveyance until the boundaries are surveyed) from the United States government per the ANCSA 14(c) [85 Stat. 688, 703; 43 U.S.C. § 1601, § 1613(c)].
The Section 14(c) ANCSA is a responsibility unique to Alaska Native village corporations.
 AS 44.33.755 – Land Conveyed in Trust. (b) Transfer of land by sale, lease, right-of-way, easement, or permit, including transfer of surface resources, may be made by the commissioner only after approval of an appropriate village entity such as the traditional council, a village meeting, or a village referendum. This approval shall be by resolution filed with the department.
 3 AAC 190.410. General The commissioner will, in his or her discretion, dispose of municipal trust land or interests in it in any manner provided for by AS 44.33.755 (b), under the procedures set out in 3 AAC 190.410 – 3 AAC 190.490. No action purporting to create an interest or legal right to, or in respect of, municipal trust land has any legal effect whatsoever unless it is taken in strict compliance with AS 44.33.755 and this chapter.
 3 AAC 190.490. No prescriptive rights No title or interest in municipal trust land will be acquired by adverse possession or prescription.
The village corporations received land entitlements and resource benefits as proclaimed by ANCSA. Regional corporations do not have ANCSA 14(c) obligations unless merged with certain village corporations.
The 14(c) obligation requires each corporation to re-transfer some of the land to individuals and the community when it receives land from the federal government under ANCSA. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) surveys these transfers and provides legal descriptions and boundaries for the corporation to use when transferring the land. Completing the surveys is an important step for each village corporation. It helps the corporations address conflicting claims and provides land for community projects.
Each village corporation must decide what is best for its own situation. However, the actual leverage to reconvey lands, and prepare a plan and final agreements will likely come from the community needs and/or individuals who wish to obtain title to their homes. Lack of title may be cause for potential forfeiture of funding for a local project improvement or hinder rightful claims to an inheritance.
Although each village corporation is charged under ANCSA with adjudicating 14(c) claims, Congress mandated the survey responsibility to the United States government, under the direction of the BLM. However, all ANCSA 14(c) adjudication decisions are the responsibility of the village corporation. BLM does not have any oversight authority regarding ANCSA 14(c) transfer decisions. Any disputes over ANCSA 14(c) reconveyances must be resolved between the village corporation and the claimants, subject to judicial review.
The resolution introduced by Chenega will be further discussed at the December AFN board of directors meeting and updates provided in a future newsletter.