Willie Hensley to speak Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011

Inupiaq elder and activist Willie Iggiagruk Hensley will give a presentation on his book, “Fifty Miles From Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People,” at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11 at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House in Sitka. This free event is sponsored by members of the Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum.

“Fifty Miles from Tomorrow” is Hensley’s first book. He wrote the book, in part, “to inspire our own people to tell their story and to convey their knowledge of culture, history, and the natural universe – that we didn’t need our story to be filtered through people from the Outside.”

Born in 1941 in Kotzebue, Hensley and his family lived a traditional subsistence lifestyle by hunting, fishing, and trapping on the Noatak River delta. As a teenager, Hensley went to a boarding school in Tennessee and spent his summers in Kotzebue.

Hensley graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in economics. Following graduation, Hensley was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, where he served four years and was elected to the Senate for a four-year term. He was appointed by Gov. Steve Cowper to the Senate again in 1987. He was appointed Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development by Gov. Tony Knowles.

Hensley was the Manager of Federal Government Relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the organization that operates and maintains the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

In addition, Hensley was a founder of NANA Regional Corporation and served as a director for 20 years. He was involved in the formation of the Alaska Federation of Natives and served as executive director, president, and co-chairman. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the First Alaskans Foundation.

Hensley also will meet with students at Sitka High School and Mount Edgecumbe High School while he is in Sitka. Funding for Hensley’s visit is provided by members of the Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum, with additional support provided by a Sitka Charitable Trust grant.

For more information about Hensley’s schedule, contact Beth Garrison, Friends of Sheldon Jackson Museum, at (907) 747-6233.

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