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Maj. Gen. John Schaeffer Jr., Kotzebue Elder and decorated veteran, dies at 77

August 29th, 2016 | Submitted Print this article   Email this article  

John "Qipqina" Schaeffer Jr. passed on Aug. 25, 2016. He was born in Kotzebue on March 30, 1939.

He enlisted in the Alaska Army National Guard in 1957 when he joined the Eskimo Scouts. He became the first Alaska Native Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard in 1986. John served in the Guard for 34 years and was the First Alaska Native two-star General of the Alaska National Guard and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veteran's Affairs.

Born in a time when Alaska Natives had little to no voice in State or Federal government, John was driven to ensure that the Iñupiaq, and other Alaska Native people, had a seat and voice at the table in every aspect of his career. He was one of the founders of the Northwest Alaska Native Association (NANA) and a major contributor to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 securing the land rights of Alaska's Native peoples.

John was the first President and CEO for NANA Regional Corporation and served in that position from 1972-1984. He worked closely with the NANA Board of Directors and Elders to set in place protections for the land to remain with the people. He guided the company through the responsible development of the Red Dog Mine.

He served as the first Mayor for the Northwest Arctic Borough in 1986 and on the Assembly from 2000-2006.

A man of resolve, courage and vision, he was willing to lead in times of uncertainty. Throughout his life, he worked to ensure the survival of the Inupiaq language, culture and traditions. He served on the Northwest Alaska Regional Elders Council continuing to advance the Inupiat Ilitqusiat.

John is survived by his wife, Mary, of 56 years; his children, Diane, Mary, Jackie, John Wayne (Lura), Susan, Gerty (Kenny), Jacquelin, Bonnie, Calvin (Sonja), Cole (Rachel); and his siblings Mike (Josphine), Pete (Polly), Ross (Millie), Bobby, Lucy, Lois, Henry (Janet), and Chuck (Tracey). He is survived by 53 grandchildren, 100 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents, John and Annie; brothers (first) Ross, Wayne, and Gilbert, and son, August.

The funeral service is scheduled for Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. in the Kotzebue High School gymnasium with the burial to follow at Ivik. A community potluck will be held at the Kotzebue High/Middle School cafeteria at 6 p.m.


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