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  • Writer's pictureKevin Gunter

What is the Tetlin Village Council not telling us about the Tetlin Native Corporation?

Updated: Jan 11

I am a Tetlin tribal member and family to Tetlin Native Corporation (TNCorp) shareholders. I have been following the Manh Choh mining project news regularly, and I wonder, does the Tetlin Village Council know something about Tetlin Native Corporation (TNCorp) that they are not telling us? After reading the News Miner, Jack Barnwell’s story “Tetlin Village Council disputes corporation's land use claims” I was seriously confused. The article said “TNCorp’s [Tetlin Native Corporation] release contains a number of inaccuracies, misstatements and unsubstantiated allegations with respect to the Manh Choh Mining Project on the Tribe’s lands,” the Tetlin Village Council stated.

First off, the Council or the Chief doesn't tell us what those inaccuracies are... and then right off, I knew this was not a true statement. I know for a fact that not all Council members believe this or say this. It is also not true where the article said “The Native Village of Tetlin is contesting claims by the Tetlin Native Corporation…”.

It is important to know that the Chief does not always speak for the whole Council or the tribe at all times for all things. Besides, adding to my confusion, I think Mr. Barnwell mixed two story lines. One story is about the land transfer. And to correct Mr. Barnwell, the shareholders DID vote on the land transfer, but they voted NO. The other story Barnwell mixed in is TNCorp contesting the KINROSS partners being on their ANCSA land.

To ease my confusion, I called and spoke directly with the General Manager of the Tetlin Native Corporation (TNCorp), David Flenaugh. My questions were answered with no hesitation.

I get it now… the Mineral Lease clearly says Tetlin Village Council granted Juneau Exploration (a KINROSS partner) mining rights to 780,000 acres of tribal land. That claim therefore includes 100,000 acres owned by TNCorp is included in the Mineral Lease — without the Corporation's consent. First they had 643,147 acres taken from them, wrongfully, and now they have the last of their land, 100,000 acres being taken from them.

What is really strange is that, according to what the Tetlin Village Council Community Plans and a whole bunch of court documents say online… is the Council owns 643,147 acres not 780,000 acres. How do KINROSS partners expect to get by with their claim to more land than the Council owns and not have TNCorp scream FOUL?

To be fair to Barnwell's article, online court documents do say in 1996 that 643,147 acres of Corporation land was wrongfully transferred to the Council by some crafty board directors that were also Tetlin Council officers, the Tetlin Chief being the primary actor, leaving TNCorp only 100,000 acres … but that is another story between TNCorp and the Council. The story here, as I understand it, is TNCorp wants KINROSS partners off ANCSA village corporation land.

The mining partners started with the 2008 Mineral Lease. But the Mineral Lease even has a copy of TNCorp's land patent showing Congress granted them 743,147.34 acres. So where did they come up with 780,000 acres?

I also read in the Mineral Lease and in some SEC publications that the Council is identified as Tetlin’s village corporation pursuant to the Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act (ANCSA). Well, maybe people from Texas, Colorado, or Canada may think this is true — but it’s NOT. Alaskans know ANCSA never gave land to tribes or tribal governments. Plus a tribal government can’t be an Alaska Native Corporation. So, this also means that maybe, where the Mineral Lease says the surface and subsurface land held by Tetlin's Council is pursuant to ANCSA should also be questioned.

David even had his researcher email me a copy of the miners' State of Alaska Hardrock Exploration permits showing they misled the State of Alaska into believing they were Alaska Native Corporation landowners so they could explore and mine TNCorp’s land. TNCorp again called FOUL and put the miner's on notice. But then the miners wrote an “oops-my-bad” kind of letter to the state saying that the Tetlin tribe/council was NOT an ANCSA corporation. However, playing this shuffle with the State of Alaska did not change what they had in the Mineral Lease, from what I saw, nor what they filed with the SEC and their investors. It still reads that the Tetlin Council is an ANCSA village corporation.

I think the Mineral Lease has other things in it, that should make any Tetlin member go “hmmmm”. But I’m counting on TNCorp to keep giving us the FACTS [please]. By the way, that was a great article by Dermot Cole about KINROSS. “Just some more facts please”.

What I really want to know is, if the Tetlin Council or Tetlin's Chief really believes that TNCorp is making “a number of inaccuracies, misstatements and unsubstantiated allegations with respect to the Manh Choh Mining Project on the Tribe’s lands”, why don’t they tell us what those inaccuracies, misstatements and unsubstantiated allegations are and show us the proof?

TNCorp details their claims and backs them up with paper. Their website, is loaded with information concerning their issues with the KINROSS partners.

I think there are things about the mining project that have been hidden from the tribe and a lot of us want to know what both sides of the story are. The KINROSS partners are not speaking up and the Tetlin Council speaks up only to praise the KINROSS partners and take jabs at TNCorp with no proof. I’m really hoping the Council or the Chief will step up with this information, so we have all the facts, not just one side.

Kevin Gunter Tetlin Tribal Member and family to TNCorp Shareholders

Please email any comments you may have on Kevin's blog to: David Flenaugh
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