Peter Jack Sr., 1927-2007: Angoon Native leader dies at 79

Jack worked for more than 30 years on behalf of community

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2007

Almost 10 years ago, Angoon city councilman Peter Jack Sr. began encouraging people to hang lights on their homes during Christmastime.

The idea wasn't to make people spend money, but to make them take some pride in their environment.

"He wanted people to feel proud about our community," said Sen. Albert Kookesh, a longtime friend. "He was always working to make Angoon a better place."

Jack, who worked for more than 30 years as a member of the Angoon City Council and a board member of Kootznoowoo, the local Native corporation, died Wednesday in Sitka. He was 79.

Jack also served as Angoon mayor, and president and chairman of Kootznoowoo. He was a longtime member of the Angoon Community Association and belonged to the Sealaska Heritage Institute Council of Elders.

"He was a hardworking man and he was compassionate about his religion as he was compassionate about his culture," said his nephew, Daniel Brown. "He tried to balance it the best he could, and it didn't always make both sides happy."

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5, at the ANB Hall, and Saturday evening at the ANB Hall in Angoon.

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Dr. Walter Soboleff will preside at Jack's funeral, 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, at the Angoon ANB Hall. Interment will follow in the Angoon cemetery.

"He was a very religious person," Kookesh said. "If you used the word 'gentleman,' it fit him perfectly. The guy was one of the hardest workers I knew."

Jack was Teikweidi from Shaanax Hit (Bear Den in the Valley House) and his Tlingit names were Daaheetsi and Kaachgaheit. His father, Little Jack (Woolshook) was Deisheetaan, and his mother, Annie (Yaxkahaat) was the daughter of William (Taaka) and Anna George (Kaaswoot).

Jack was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served in World War II. After his honorable discharge, he became a commercial fisherman and fished out of Ketchikan and Sitka. He returned to Angoon in the mid-1950s, and took over the fishing vessel Carolyn J from his father-in-law in 1959. Three years later, he bought the seiner Jerilyn, his fishing boat for the next 44 years.

Jack became a Christian in 1967. He spent almost 10 years studying before he was ordained as a minister of the Angoon Presbyterian Church in September.

He was a strong advocate for subsistence and always argued against cutting down trees in front of Angoon, Kookesh said.

"He wanted our village to look like we cared about our environment," Kookesh said. "If you look at other communities in Southeast Alaska, you don't see trees in front of them. In Angoon, you still do."

And this Christmas, he said, there were more lights than ever before.

Jack is survived by his wife, Ethel; sons, Peter Jr. and Dennis; daughter, Carol Martin and Jerilyn George; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; his brother, Frank Jack Sr. and sister, Jenny Him, and numerous nephews and nieces.

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