Passing: Al Kookesh, Southeast Tlingit elder


JUNEAU – Former State Sen. Albert Matthew Kookesh, Jr. has passed after a long illness.

Born in Nov. 24, 1948 in Juneau, he attended Angoon Grade School and Mount Edgecumbe High School, completing college at Alaska Methodist University and the University of Washington, where he earned his law degree.

Kookesh was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives from 1997 through 2005, and to the Senate from 2005 through 2013. In 2012, he lost to Sen. Bert Stedman.

He was a commercial fisherman, lodge and market owner and operator, and worked as a special assistant for Rural Affairs in the Tony Knowles Administration and later the Bill Walker Administration.

He was married to Sally Woods Kookesh and was the father of Elaine, Jacleen. Reanna, Albert, and Walter.

Active in the Alaska Democratic Party for most of his adult life, he also served on the Board of Directors of Sealaska Corporation, and served as board chairman from 2000 to 2014. Kookesh was a member of the Haa Aaní, LLC Board of Managers, a member and former chair of the Elders’ Settlement Trust, served as a Trustee of the Sealaska Heritage Institute Board of Trustees, and served as Sealaska’s representative to the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Kookesh was also active in Native politics, as the former Alaska Federation of Natives chair, and former Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp president, as well as a director of the First Alaskans Institute.

In the business world, he was business manager and acting president and CEO of Kootznoowoo Inc. between 1976-1992 and was the owner and operator of Kootznahoo Inlet Lodge.

His Tlingit name was Kaasháan. He was Tlingit/Eagle, Teikweidí (Brown Bear clan), child of L’eeneidí yádi clan. The family said that memorial arrangements are being made and will be announced at a later date.

Read: Must Read Alaska story from 2017 on Al Kookesh


  1. He did like seeing people. Everywhere he was out, he didnt just look past you like some leaders with tunnel vision, he looked into you, he saw your presence even if he didn’t know you.

  2. His mother was from Mexico and his father was part Alaska Native. He was a fine and friendly fellow, very practical, and never arrogant. I always liked him. His schooling was all through affirmative action, funded by taxpayers but that is how America has been for almost 60 years now. I’m not sure he had a single bill pass the legislature; but let’s face it, Alaskans would be better off today if we could say that about most legislators and about all people in Congress. Albert once told me he had shot countless deer, all with a .22 rimfire and never once in daylight. Hunting at night with a .22 and a flashlight he strongly recommended small islands that were unlikely to have brown bears.

  3. He also attended Wrangell Institute when I was there and was my classmate in Edgecumbe. We used to jokingly call him Sal at Wrangell because he reminded us of Sal Mineo.

  4. Al was a competitive basketball player back in the ’70s. I played against Al in tournaments during those years. He played hard and was a gentleman on the court.
    Rest in Peace Albert Kookesh.

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