Sealaska endorses Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas

ANCHORAGE — The Sealaska Board of Directors took the rare step of making endorsements in the races for governor and lieutenant governor, encouraging Alaskans to vote for Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas.

The organization, one of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations created through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, said it weighed in on the governor’s race because of the tremendous stakes and because Bill and Heidi closely align with the interests of Sealaska’s 23,000 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian shareholders.

“Sealaska is guided by Indigenous values first and foremost: responsible development, environmental sustainability and an outlook that extends many generations into the future,” Sealaska board chair Joe Nelson said in a press release. “We are at a pivotal moment on a variety of fronts. We need leadership – locally and in Washington – that reflects our values and understands our needs.”

In explaining its endorsement, Sealaska highlighted Walker Drygas’ consistent support of the Alaska Marine Highway System, the candidates’ dedication to fair wages and good working conditions, and Walker’s leadership in expanding access to Medicaid — which provided healthcare to 70,000 Alaskans — as well as his administration’s work to preserve and promote Alaska Native languages and to strengthen policies fighting human trafficking, which disproportionately impacts Alaska Native women and girls.

“Some of the most meaningful experiences of my life happened because people rooted in Southeast Alaska welcomed me into their homes, showed me their communities, and helped me understand the ways the State needs to do a better job for the Alaska Native people who built this state into what it is today,” Bill Walker said. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to have the support of Sealaska. One of our core beliefs is that we need to work together as Alaskans to confront our problems and disagreements, a process known to Tlingit people as Wooch.een,”  Heidi Drygas added. “By embracing this spirit of working together, we will create a bright future for the community I call home, Dzantik’i Heeni, and our entire state. Examples of what this approach to governing means in real terms include our commitment to improving the relationship between the State and Tribes rather than resorting to lawsuits, to advance Tribal-State compacts on education and public safety, and our work to grow the economies of rural communities rather than only focusing state resources on urban Alaska.”

Bill Walker served as the eleventh Governor of Alaska and is seeking election again this year alongside Heidi Drygas, the former Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Alaskans can vote in the primary election now until August 16.