Alaska Native Leader Don Wright Passes Away

Alaska Native leader Don Wright has died. He was 84 when he passed away at home on July 5.

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Wright was instrumental in developing the tribal lands compensation legislation, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Wright was leader of the Alaska Federation of Natives that year.

Wright helped organize AFN during the 1960s, and fought to get the best settlement possible for Alaska Natives. Wright and other Native leaders traveled to Washington, DC to lobby for the law, even though funds were scarce. Wright often used his own money for airfare and expenses, since AFN in its early days had no funds at all. Despite the odds, Wright was successful in getting Nixon administration backing for the settlement.

ANCSA compensated Alaska Natives for loss of lands and established regional and village Native corporations with the right to select 44 million acres of land and appropriated $962.5 million to them.

Wright was born in Nenana in 1929. He became a pilot and established his own air service. He later formed a construction company, and helped build airstrips and roads in the Interior. He also helped build the first oil field camp at Prudhoe Bay.

Wright’s family says he was a champion for Alaska. His funeral will take place July 26th in Nenana.