Land dispute over Sealaska and Sheldon Jackson College heats up

Land dispute over Sealaska and Sheldon Jackson College heats up

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by Derek Smith

   The Sheldon Jackson College is no more. It was located in Sitka.  But their Identity still exists...and it's giving the Sealaska corporation fits.

     "Because Sheldon Jackson made that claim, we've had to go through adjudification processes which has delayed, and in a way, stopped the process of our 1974 application," Jaeleen Aragujo, Vice President of Sealaska says.

Araujo goes on to say that the Sheldon Jackson College Board of Trustees claim came after an orginal agreement between the Bureau of Land Management and Sealaska was posted publicly.
    
"When that public notice came out in Sitka, that prompted the college to then initiate their own claim saying they had a color-of-title claim for a larger area of 160 acres," Aragujo says.

That larger area encompasses the 11 acres Sealaska is requiring. But the Sealaska Corporation says they've claimed that piece of land in 1975, under a legal provision known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (14h-1) which legally gives Sealaska ownership over claimed native lands.

"Our clans can't go through any process to secure ownership or tribes right now. The only entity that is eligible over federal law to secure ownership is us Sealaska through the 14-h 1 process," Aragujo says.

In other interviews, the SJ's Board of Trustees say that piece of property was obtained after the deed of their college was issued in 1981, but Sealaska says no deed exists. Now they wait, to see if the Trustees go through with their appeal.

     "They haven't yet confirmed it.  We are waiting to see what their appeal might say once they file an actual brief about appealing the decision of the Business of Land Management. " Aragujo says.

     If anything, Sealaska still have signed a memorandum of agreement, which manages cultural sites in Sitka. They say even though it follows similar terms with the Trustees, it's something the native corporation signed before Sheldon Jackson filed their claim.