Gil Truitt, Tlingit elder and revered school administrator, dead at 93

Gil Truitt, Mt. Edgecumbe ’48, speaks at Sitka Rotary in 2012. (Robert Woolsey/KCAW)

Tlingit elder and long-time Mount Edgecumbe High School administrator Gil Truitt has died at the age of 93. 

Truitt was a member of Mount Edgecumbe High School’s first graduating class and worked at the Sitka boarding school for more than thirty years before retiring in the early 90s. He continued to serve on the school’s advisory board after his retirement. He also served as a basketball coach and a senior class and pep club advisor, in addition to his work as a teacher and principal. 

Truitt was known to many as “Mr. Mt. Edgecumbe.” He spoke to the Sitka Rotary Club in 2012 about his work to reopen the school under state ownership after its closure by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1983.

“And when the school closed it was sad, but I was not one of those who was sad. I thought, The school is too good to keep closed,” he said. “But also, I knew we had the huge alumni statewide, and they flooded the state legislators with letters to reopen the school.”

It reopened September 30, 1985.

Truitt received numerous awards in his lifetime. He was an inductee of the Alaska High School Hall of Fame, and in 2018, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska honored him with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. But he said he didn’t do it for the recognition: 

“A person does not become a teacher for recognition, to become rich or to become popular,” Truitt said at the awards ceremony in 2018. “But believe me, when those recognitions come, it is worth every second, every hour, every year that a dedicated teacher will spend with the young people.

Truitt wrote a longtime column for the Sitka Sentinel called “Gilnettings” and was instrumental in getting Raven Radio on the air. He secured a place for the station’s transmitter on the Mt. Edgecumbe High School campus in 1981. 

A service is being planned for next week. 

Erin McKinstry is a Report for America Corps Member.