For generations, the Indigenous peoples of Alaska have been sharing an innate bond with the rugged yet beautiful lands they call home. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 marked a pivotal point in resolving longstanding land disputes and paving the way for economic self-determination through the establishment of Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs).

More Than Just the Business

These 13 regional corporations and over 200 village corporations are more than just business entities – they are vessels carrying the hopes, aspirations, and cultural heritage of Alaska Natives. Each corporation is entrusted with managing the precious 44 million acres of land granted under ANCSA, a legacy that demands unwavering stewardship and a commitment to sustainable development. 

Government Help Gives Them a Boost

One of the significant catalysts propelling the growth of ANCs has been their inclusion in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program. This program recognizes them as businesses owned by minorities. It allows them to compete for government contracts across diverse sectors, from infrastructure and defense to engineering and professional services. 

The Numbers Show Success

The federal government’s determined efforts to increase contracting opportunities for ANCs have been generating results. In fiscal year 2021, federal agencies awarded $31.2 billion in contracts to 8(a) firms, including ANCs. While exact figures for individual ANCs are not publicly available, their growing presence across various industries is undeniable. The 8(a) program grants ANCs an excellent competitive edge by allowing for sole-source contracts up to $22 million without extensive justification, further pushing their success. 

Budget Allocation

At the core of ANCSA lies a commitment to shared prosperity. A remarkable 70% of revenues generated from natural resource development on ANCSA lands are distributed among the regional corporations. This ensures that all ANCs benefit from economic activities, regardless of the natural resources in their specific region.

A Journey of Triumphs and Challenges

Like any pioneering endeavor, the journey of ANCs has been marked by both triumphs and challenges. 


  • Economic Growth: ANCs have become engines of job creation and economic development, contributing significantly to Alaska's economy through responsible resource management.

  • Self-Determination: These corporations embody the spirit of self-determination, allowing Alaska Natives to reclaim control over their lands and resources.

  • Cultural Preservation: Profits generated by ANCs are reinvested in cultural programs and community development, safeguarding the rich heritage and culture of Alaska's Indigenous people. .

  • Economic Empowerment: ANCs provide employment opportunities and revenue streams that promote self-sufficiency and economic empowerment for Alaska Native communities.

  • Competitive Advantage: The 8(a) program and other set-aside initiatives gave ANCs a competitive edge in securing government contracts fostering long-term growth and stability.

  • Diversification: Many ANCs have diversified their business portfolios, reducing reliance on any single industry and ensuring long-term resilience.

  • Shareholder Benefits: A portion of ANC profits are distributed directly to Alaska Native shareholders, bringing tangible economic benefits to the communities they represent.


  • Resource Disparities: Not all ANCs have equal access to natural resources, leading to economic disparities and uneven development among corporations.

  • Contract Dependency: A heavy reliance on government contracts can pose risks if policies or priorities shift.

  • Criticism and Controversy: The ANC system has faced criticism, with some arguing that it provides unfair advantages or that some corporations have strayed from their original goals.

  • Shareholder Engagement: Concerns have been raised about shareholder involvement in decision-making processes, particularly in more extensive and complex organizations.

  • Environmental and Cultural Tensions: Resource extraction activities by some ANCs have drawn criticism from within Alaska Native communities, raising questions about potential conflicts with traditional values and environmental stewardship.

  • Wealth Concentration: While economic opportunities have been created, there are concerns about the concentration of wealth and power among a relatively small number of corporations and individuals.

The story of Alaska Native Corporations is one of resilience, adaptation, and a relentless pursuit of self-determination. While challenges persist, their success in government contracting and economic development stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples. As this unique model continues to evolve, it strives to balance economic progress and the preservation of cultural identity, ensuring that each contract secured, each dollar earned, and each shareholder benefited contributes to a brighter future for all Alaska Natives.