Back in the day, the oil companies knew there was oil in Alaska’s North Slope but had no way to exploit it. The main reason? The federal government hadn’t turned over promised land to the Alaska Natives, which had to be done before anyone else could claim the land. The U. S. allocated a certain amount of land to the indigenous people of Alaska as part of statehood in 1959. By the late 1960s, they still hadn’t finished the process. Alaska Native leaders started organizing to make it happen. And business leaders in the state wanted it done so they could get leases to get the oil out of the ground. As part of that process, ANCSA (the Alaska Native Claims and Settlement Act) was passed in 1971 and the legal and economic status of Alaska Natives changed forever.
This is a quick summary—I’m skipping a lot of nuances and information that can’t be explained in one paragraph. But I’m telling you this to whet your appetite. The Alaska Historical Society has compiled a resource that provides accurate, detailed information for educators and others interested in ANCSA and Alaska history.