In this Juneau Empire file photo, Former Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, tells his favorite Dr. Walter Soboleff stories during a celebration of Dr. Soboleff at the Walter Soboleff Center on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Albert Kookesh, Alaska Native leader, dies at 72

Lawmaker and leader died at Angoon home

This article has been updated to include new information.

Tlingit leader and former Alaska lawmaker Albert Kookesh died at his home in Angoon Friday, according to a statement from Sealaska Corporation. He was 72.

“Today, we mourn the loss of a colleague, a friend, a champion of Alaska Native people,” said Sealaska Chair Joe Nelson in the statement. “Although the void felt at Sealaska will be profound, we can all celebrate a life well-lived — a life of public service. Albert made a lasting impression. We will all miss him.”

Kookesh served in a number of prominent leadership roles in his lifetime, according to the statement, including chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp President and 16 years in the Alaska State Legislature, serving in both the House and Senate.

“Albert was a champion, fierce advocate and remarkable leader who dedicated his entire life to serving our people and communities,” said Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson in a post on social media. “He will be greatly missed and remembered for his love that stretched near and far.”

[Video: Former state senator Albert Kookesh shares story of bolo tie he received from Walter Soboleff]

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a statement recognizing the loss and ordering U.S. and Alaska state flags to fly at half-staff at a date to be determined by the Kookesh family.

“Albert committed his life to public service and advancing Alaska Native issues through his work with Kootznoowoo Inc., as a 16-year legislator, a co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, a board member of the Sealaska Corporation, and so many other endeavors,” Dunleavy said in the statement. “He embodied the Alaskan spirit and his legacy of leadership and dedication to the people of Alaska will live on long past his death. We offer our sincere condolences to the Kookesh family and the community of Angoon in this time of mourning.”

Lawmakers sent their condolences as well.

“Albert was a lifelong advocate for his people, a force in Alaska politics, and a legendary Alaska Native leader. He achieved the trifecta of serving in the Senate, as co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and as president of the Sealaska board,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham. “My thoughts are with his wife, Sally, his entire family, and the community of Angoon.”

Reps. Jonathan Kriess-Tompkins, D-Sitka, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, put out statements honoring Kookesh as well, as did House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

“Albert Kookesh was not only an advocate for the region, he was a statewide leader and an excellent family man. He will be greatly missed within his family and beyond that throughout the state and Southeast Alaska,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, in a statement. “He took great care of his family, his village, and Alaskans across the state. My condolences to the Kookesh family and all of Albert’s friends near and far.”

Albert was Tlingit, Eagle/Teikweidí (Brown Bear clan), according to Sealaska. He is survived by his wife, Sally, and his children, Elaine Kookesh, and son Edward Jack, Reanna Kookesh-Booth, Albert Kookesh III, Walter Kookesh, and Sealaska Vice President Jaeleen Kookesh. He is also survived by many grandchildren and brothers and sisters, Sealaska said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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