Tlingit and Haida to elect new president

Ed Thomas has held presidency for almost 30 years

After almost 30 years under the same leadership, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska will elect a new president Friday during the 79th annual Tribal Assembly.


President Ed Thomas has served the Central Council since 1984, with a break between 2007 and 2010.

The assembly is ongoing this week, with the majority of events open to the public, co-organizer Raeanne Holmes said. It begins today with a grand entrance of delegates at 12:30 p.m. at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, 320 W. Willoughby Ave. The Yaaw Tei Yi dance group will perform at the opening ceremony. At 6:30 p.m., a welcome dinner will be held at the hall, and keynote speaker and former state Sen. Albert Kookesh will give an address.

The theme of the week is “For Our Future Generations,” aptly titled considering the assembly will include presidential and vice presidential elections — a big deal for the organization, Holmes said.

“This is a turning point in our history ... and it means a lot to us, the new leadership coming in,” she said.

Thomas was elected to the presidency in 1984 and resigned in April 2007, citing personal reasons, according to a previous Empire report. His term was scheduled to end in April 2008. Juneau’s Bill Martin, now Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, took his place. Thomas was back at the post in 2010 and is retiring for good this time around, assembly co-organizer and assistant to the president Melissa Kookesh said.

“He’s been phenomenal,” she said of Thomas’ 27 years in the presidency.

Before serving as Central Council president, Thomas headed up the Ketchikan School District’s Indian Education Program starting in 1976.

There are several candidates for president and the six vice president positions. Candidates will give campaign speeches at 3:15 p.m. and take questions at a Q-and-A dinner forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at the hall. Thomas and his wife, Cathy, will be preparing a meal of local halibut, herring eggs, deer meat and gravy and rice, Melissa Kookesh said. Elections will take place at 10:45 a.m. Friday.

The presidential candidates are:

• Richard Peterson of Kasaan

• William Sheakley of Juneau

• Harold Houston of Juneau

• Jacob Cabuag, Jr. of Seattle

The vice presidential candidates are:

• William Micklin

• Jolene Edenshaw

• Robert Sanderson, Jr.

• Marvin Adams

• Carol Martinez

• Lowell Halverson

• Tasha Hotch

• Rachel Hotch

• Gerry Hope

• Jessica Dominy

• Jacqueline Pata

• Richard George

Elections for tribal court judge, youth representative, citizen of the year and small and large community council of the year will also be held.

On Saturday, the last day of the Tribal Assembly, the tribal council will consider 35 community resolutions and finalize its budget, Holmes said.

And the timing of things worked out perfectly, Melissa Kookesh said. After undergoing major renovations, the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall will be finished in time for the week’s meetings.

“We were very nervous up until last week if we were going to be able to hold the Tribal Assembly in our hall,” she said. “One of the huge sighs of relief is that our hall is going to be completed just in time.”

The assembly’s tribal host is Gerald Bennett of Juneau and the tribal hostess is Julie Coburn of Kasaan. A full agenda of this week’s events and registration information can be found online at The meetings will be streamed online at

• Contact report er Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.


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