Athabascan leader Peter John dies

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Chief Peter John, the traditional chief of Athabascan Indians, died Friday in his log home in Minto.

John, 102, was surrounded by family and village elders when he died.

''He'll be greatly missed by everybody,'' said Andy Jimmie, chief of Minto. ''It was an honor to live in the village with him.''

John was born Oct. 15, 1900. His mother died when he was 2 and he saw his first white man when he was 10 years old. His formal education ended in elementary school.

John never stepped foot outside of Alaska and lived most of his life in Minto, a community of about 230 people 130 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

John's mother died when he was 2 and he saw his first white man when he was 10 years old. His formal education ended in elementary school.

Known as an outspoken man, he testified for Alaska Native land claims during the late 1960s and advocated sobriety for Alaska Native people.

He was elected by Athabascan elders in 1992 to be their traditional chief. The position is a teaching role, not a political one.

He taught tradition and sought to remind people what it meant to be Athabascan. He wrote a book, ''The Gospel According to Peter John.''

The self-taught John was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1994. His wife Elsie John died in 1995.

Governor Frank Murkowski on Saturday ordered that the Alaska flag be flown at half staff from Monday morning through Friday afternoon in John's honor.



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