Albert Kookesh will step down as the chair of the Sealaska board of directors, the Southeast Alaska regional Native corporation announced on its website on Tuesday. Kookesh has served as the board chair for 14 years.
In a letter to shareholders, Kookesh said a heart attack in March has required him to cut back on work commitments. He writes that he’s made a full recovery and is in good health.
“However, I gave my family and friends a scare, not to mention how it scared me,” Kookesh wrote.
Kookesh, who is from Angoon, also served as co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives for 14 years before deciding not to run for re-election at the organization’s yearly convention last October.
Kookesh was a state senator from 2005 until 2013 when he was succeeded by Bert Stedman of Sitka.
Kookesh writes that he told the Sealaska board of his decision during the corporation’s last annual meeting six months ago.
“It is my intention to continue to be a member of the Sealaska board and I will continue to advocate for tribal member shareholders and for Native issues, which are important to all of us,” Kookesh wrote.
The board will decide on a new chair at the next Sealaska annual meeting in June.
Sealaska board members include gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott, former Haines lawmaker and current candidate for state office Bill Thomas, outgoing Tlingit-Haida Central Council President Ed Thomas, National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jacqueline Pata, University of Alaska Southeast Dean of Enrollment Joe Nelson and Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl, who serves as the board’s vice chair.