Organized into local "camps," delegates are sent to the annual "Grand Camp" convention. The Grand Camp Executive Committee provided the leadership by which the ANB/ANS advocated and won equal voting, education and civil rights for Alaska Natives decades ahead of any other national civil rights movement.
The Alaska Native claims movement was initiated at the 1929 ANB/ANS Grand Camp Convention in Haines.
The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, authorized by an act of Congress in 1935, was organized by the ANB/ANS to prosecute the Tlingit and Haida claims. The resulting lawsuit sought compensation for lost lands and fishing rights. The Central Council won the case in 1958 and although the subsequent award was insultingly paltry, the case proved the validity of Alaska Native claims.
Earnings from the award funded lobbying efforts to gain participation of the Tlingit and Haida people in the much larger Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that eventually won a comparatively huge settlement in money and land for Natives of Southeast.
The Indian Reorganization Act organizations were authorized by a 1936 amendment to the original1935 act. Although the resulting community associations became "federally recognized tribes," they were initially organized under rules and structures designed for Savings and Loans institutions.
Today, there are 19 federally recognized tribal organizations in Southeast Alaska.
Native claims to land and resources, given legal validity by the efforts of the Central Council, were recognized in the founding documents that created the State of Alaska, but the use and occupancy of land by Alaska Natives were ignored by the new state, which was granted 105 million acres of public land.
When state selections encroached upon Native lands, the conflict led to the creation of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1966. The goals of this organization, oddly enough, meshed with the objectives of oil companies for clear title to oil leases on the North Slope. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 authorized the creation of 13 regional corporations and over 200 village corporations, plus four "urban" corporations, including Shee Atik? of Sitka and Goldbelt of Juneau.
ANCSA included a settlement of 44 million acres and nearly a billion dollars. In Southeast, Sealaska and 12 community corporations were organized in the early 1970s. Collectively, these corporations eventually selected about 630,000 acres of land that were withdrawn from the Tongass National Forest.
In 1968, the ANB/ANS Grand Camp authorized by resolution the creation of the "Native Board of Health" to advise the Indian Health Service in its operation of the Mt. Edgecumbe Service Unit, which provided medical and dental services to Alaska Natives of Southeast. The Board of Health, with the concurrence of the Grand Camp Executive Committee incorporated in 1975 as the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation (now Consortium).
SEARHC (pronounced SEARCH), governed by a board of directors representing all Native communities in Southeast, eventually assumed all program responsibilities of the entire Mt. Edgecumbe Service Unit, which includes a regional hospital in Sitka.
Today, its nearly 1,000 employees comprise the largest health care organization in the region.