Native Alaskans seek consultation with companies before projects start

It's a hot topic, especially in the cold Arctic.

How do oil and gas developers do business and have positive relationships with Alaska Natives who own a large chunk of the land and natural resources in the state, but need that land to remain unpolluted and wildlife-rich to preserve their way of life?

A trio of Alaska Native leaders addressed that question and others like it on Wednesday at the Alaska Oil & Gas Congress, a four-day meeting in downtown Anchorage of business executives, regulators and others involved in oil and gas.

The speakers, Jerry Isaac of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Margie Brown of Cook Inlet Region Inc. and Marie Greene of NANA Regional Corp., talked a little bit about oil and gas. But most of what they said was relevant to non-Native businesses of any kind.

Since Congress created Alaska Native corporations, seeded them with money and gave them land, the corporations have formed hundreds of partnerships with non-Native firms in many lines of business, from tourism to mining to government contracting.

Greene, NANA's chief executive, said companies have to be aware of the intense level of consultation in villages that needs to happen before major projects are undertaken on NANA land. The huge Red Dog zinc and lead mine, for example, didn't happen until after 10 years of consultation with Northwest Arctic villages, she said.

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