A longtime Alaska political and business leader is fighting prostate cancer.
Former 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 is also 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,” said Peterson, now in his early 40s.
Kookesh is being recognized at a medical fundraiser and appreciation dinner from 5-8 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’,” he 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. He 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 Kookesh’s.
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.