Respected Alaska Native community elder Howard Luke dies

FAIRBANKS — Alaska Native community member Howard Luke, a respected Athabascan elder known for promoting indigenous culture through his work with young people, has died.

The 95-year-old member of the Interior Alaska Native community late Saturday at Fairbanks’ Denali Center, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Sunday. Mo MacCracken, Luke’s daughter, confirmed his death to the newspaper.

Luke founded the Gaaleeya Spirit Camp to teach skills to young people including Native art and language and techniques for living off the land. The camp on the Tanana River near Fairbanks will remain open for community building, youth empowerment and educational opportunities, MacCracken said.

Luke was born in Nenana in 1923 and moved to Fairbanks with his mother at age 13.

“He was a giver of knowledge and of life and supporter of youth and education,” MacCracken said Sunday. “For a man who only went to school through third grade, he encouraged everyone to seek knowledge.”

A building at the Effie Kokrine Charter School in Fairbanks was named in Luke’s honour for his work. Hundreds of people attended his 90th and 94th birthday celebrations there in recent years.

“What was so good about my dad was that there was never any colour,” MacCracken said. “He had friends of every race, every gender, every nationality. He never looked at people as any different. He was just a friend to everyone.”

A public service to pay tribute to Luke is scheduled to be held in Fairbanks Wednesday.

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