Former senator, longtime Native leader Albert Kookesh fighting cancer

Albert Kookesh discusses regional issues in his legislative office in 2012, when he was a state senator. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

A longtime Alaska political and business leader is fighting prostate cancer.

Listen now

Former state Sen. Albert Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat, spent 16 years in the Alaska Legislature. As a senator, he represented the state’s largest electoral district, which ran from southern Southeast through the Interior and most of the way to the Bering Sea.

Kookesh also served as co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives and president of the Sealaska regional Native corporation’s board of directors.

The Tlingit leader also is a subsistence activist who’s played leadership roles in the Alaska Native Brotherhood and other organizations.

Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Peterson said Kookesh has been a mentor to many tribal and community leaders.

“I was a 19-year-old mayor in Kasaan. And as our representative and then senator he was always there to offer advice, point us in the right direction, and really make sure that we knew how to advocate for our community,” Peterson said — now in his early 40s.

Kookesh is being recognized at a medical fundraiser and appreciation dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in downtown Juneau.

The Central Council is a sponsor, along with Sealaska Corp. and Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Peterson said the event is more about recognition of decades of work than raising money for treatment.

“Albert’s not asking for this. This is really our community coming together and saying, ‘Hey, we want to hold he and (his wife) Sally up, their children up, while they go through this fight,’” Peterson said.

Kookesh couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

The Angoon resident spent eight years in the House and the same number in the Senate, representing mostly rural communities.

Kookesh lost a re-election bid in 2012 after reapportionment pitted him against Sen. Bert Stedman, a Sitka Republican. The new district included more of Stedman’s constituents than those of Kookesh.

Kookesh spent 14 years chairing Sealaska’s governing panel. He stepped down in 2014 after a heart attack, though he remains on the board, where he’s served for 40 years. He also chose not to run for re-election as AFN co-chairman that year, a position he held for 14 years.

Kookesh has a law degree, was a commercial fisherman and owned a lodge and store in Angoon.

Previous articleSix charged in extensive Anchorage mail fraud case
Next articleFish and Game criticized over “chronic failure” regulating Mat-Su waters
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska - Juneau
Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.