The same day the City and Borough of Juneau took a step toward annexing land that includes portions of Admiralty Island, protesters gathered at the Alaska Capitol and at City Hall.
The protesters were mostly people from or currently living in Angoon who are against the idea of CBJ annexing part of the land traditionally called Kootznoowoo — fortress of the bears — by its Tlingit inhabitants.
“It’s the equivalent of me going to your backyard and saying, I like this piece of land, I’m going to take it,’” said Erica Carlson. Carlson is from Angoon, lives in Juneau and organized Friday’s protest.
The roughly 20 protesters clutched signs that read, “Land is Sacred,” “No land grabbing,” and “We have to protect our lands for generations beyond me.” They began their protest at the Capitol before marching to City Hall.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly filed Friday a draft petition for informal review with the State of Alaska Local Boundary Commission to expand its boundaries to include another 1,428 square miles of land. The move follows adoption of a resolution in early 2018 to pursue annexation.
Annexation would not change ownership of the land, but property owners would pay taxes to CBJ, and receive emergency medical services and the ability to vote in CBJ elections, according to CBJ.
“The basis for this petition stems from the State of Alaska Local Boundary Commission’s 1997 Model Borough Boundary Study which proposed regions like ‘the Mansfield Peninsula, Glass Peninsula, and Seymour Canal areas of Admiralty Island’ be incorporated by the borough,” CBJ wrote in the draft.
Those model boundaries were defined in November 1991, according to the study, which lays out the way the boundaries of boroughs could logically expand.
By pursuing annexation, CBJ would be adding the land to its boundaries before another entity could do so. It would also present a growth in its property and sales tax bases, and the possibility for economic development. Mines within the borough’s boundaries, such as Greens Creek Mine, generate tax revenue for CBJ. A McDowell Group study from 2017 found mine property and sales tax generated $2.4 million in payments to CBJ.
CBJ’s proposed annexation areas include Oliver Inlet, Glass Peninsula, Pack Creek and Horse and Colt Islands, a triangular portion on the mainland including Tracy Arm and an area on Admiralty Island south of Greens Creek Mine.
Those portions of Admiralty Island drew opposition from the City of Angoon, which passed a resolution against the proposed annexation Monday, as well as its one-time and current residents. Angoon is not within the annexation area, but it has cultural and historical ties to Admiralty Island.
Carlson said the people of Angoon have been the caretakers of the land for centuries, and that tradition should continue. She said its residents, including her grandfather Matthew Fred Sr., played a big part in lobbying the federal government, which led to the creation of Admiralty National Monument in 1978.
Ceding control over some of that land to a governing body is not popular with people in Angoon, said Maxine Fred-Thompson, Carlson’s mother and an Angoon resident.
ANCSA was signed into law and 1971 and transferred land titles to 13 Alaska Native regional corporations, and Fred-Thompson’s point was a sense of ownership dates further back.
For example, Dinah Hobson, a protester whose family comes from Angoon, said the northern portion of Admiralty Island is traditionally the land of the Wooshkeetaan — Shark — people.
“The records show we never gave away that land,” Hobson said. “We need to have that conversation with Shark people and other entities.”
State Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, whose district includes Angoon, joined the protesters and said their stance has his full support.
He said portions of CBJ’s proposed annexation, such as the tracts of Admiralty Island, are “problematic,” and he would like to see it “heavily amended.”
Some aspects of the draft petition, such as the annexation of Tracy Arm Fjord, aren’t objectionable.
However, what happens next will depend on feedback from the Local Boundary Commission, which will offer feedback based on the draft.
CBJ would then submit another draft for technical review.
There will be extensive public process throughout the annexation process, according to a CBJ press release.
Carlson said she will be paying attention and so will residents of Angoon.
“They love the land, they respect the land,” she said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.