Rural Alaska

Longtime Alaska lawmaker and Native leader John Sackett has died at age 76

Former longtime Alaska lawmaker and Alaska Native leader John Sackett has died. He was 76.

Sackett, born in 1944 at a spring hunting camp along the Huslia River in the Interior, rose to become a prominent lawmaker during a career that began in the state House of Representatives in 1967, when Sackett was in his early 20s.

Sackett strove to make a difference in rural Alaska, after childhood experiences in the remote village of Cutoff highlighted village shortcomings in medical, transportation and other services, according to a profile by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

By the time his legislative career ended in 1986, Sackett had spent 14 years in the state Senate and four in the House representing Interior and Southwest Alaska, and he’d served as Senate Finance Committee chair, according to the UAF profile.

His work in the Legislature was only part of Sackett’s legacy, said Sam Kito, a former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, on Friday.

Sackett also helped establish Doyon Ltd., the Alaska Native regional corporation, in the early 1970s, Kito said. Sackett was the first president of Doyon, and Kito served as executive vice president. Sackett was also former president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, providing services to dozens of Interior tribes.

In the mid-1960s, Sackett was an influential Native leader in the fight for the sweeping land settlement agreement for Alaska Natives, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Kito said.

Sackett continued to attend Doyon meetings until late in life, the Doyon corporation wrote on its Facebook page in late 2019.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered U.S. flags and Alaska state flags to fly at half-staff on Monday in remembrance of Sackett.