Organizing Natural Resources

Despite the fact Alaska Natives depend more heavily upon wildlife for their survival than does any other group in the country, neither ANCSA nor ANILCA recognized the right of aboriginal peoples to manage wildlife on their lands – a right exercised by many tribes in the Lower 48. CATG’s first economic activity was to organize two co-ops to assist villagers in marketing fur and beadwork as well as clothing and other items sewn from skins.

Soon, CATG leaders felt the time had come to take a bolder step. Congress had passed amendments to Public Law 93-638, mandating that Federal agencies contract directly with tribes determined to run their own programs. CATG turned its attention towards health care.

“Health is the primary reason we’re here,” Alexander explains, noting that in times past, the people had their own traditional medicines, which served them well. “Then we came across TB, the flu, and some things we didn’t know how to combat – so we came away from using our own traditional medicine.” This put the medical care of the people – and the wage-paying jobs required to deliver it – largely in the hands of people living elsewhere.