Alaska natives
 are some of

America’s poorest corporate shareholders

They came by their holdings as a birthright, through a program created by the federal government four decades ago to settle native land claims in Alaska. Over time and through special privileges granted by Congress, the corporations have partaken in one of the great contracting booms in American history. But Alaska natives are still among the nation’s poorest citizens.

Where did all the money go?


Alaska native corporations were created by Congress 40 years ago to settle land claims and boost economic development. But after many of the fledgling corporations lost hundreds of millions of dollars, Congress passed rules allowing ANC subsidiary firms to participate in the Small Business Administration’s “8(a) program,” through which the government offers “set-aside” federal contracting work for small, disadvantaged and minority businesses.

Congress also exempted subsidiaries from caps on the size of contracts they could obtain without competition, from rules requiring that they be run by Alaska natives and from limits on the number of subsidiaries they could create to get government business.

More in this series
Alaska natives shortchanged by program
Alaska natives shortchanged by program
The story of Alaska native corporations is one of good intentions gone awry — and federal authorities looking the other way.
Two worlds: photo gallery
Photo Gallery
A look at some of the Alaska communities represented by native corporations.
Live Q&A
Live Q&A, 11 a.m. Thursday
Reporter Robert O'Harrow Jr. takes your questions and comments.
Alaska native corporations' shareholder benefits
Shareholder benefits
Over the past decade, corporations have started to give back to communities in donations and scholarships.