Sealaska Mourns the Loss of Tlingit leader David Katzeek
Thursday, October 29, 2020

It is with great sadness, but also reverence, respect and gratitude for his innumerable contributions, that we share the news of the passing of Tlingit Elder and culture bearer Kingeistí David Katzeek.

Katzeek was a clan leader for the Eagle moiety, Shangukeidí (Thunderbird Clan) of Klukwan. Katzeek was from Kaawdliyaayi Hít (House Lowered from the Sun), and Shis’g̠i Hít (Tree Bark House) in Chilkat K̠wáan Klukwan, after his mother, the late Anna Klanott Katzeek. He was a child of the G̠aanax̠teidí after his father, George J. Katzeek, who was a Raven G̠aanax̠teidí Clan of the Raven-Otter-Whale-Frog House in Klukwan.

Katzeek was born in Klukwan on November 12, 1942, and moved to Juneau in 1948. He died in Juneau on October 28, 2020.

He was deeply involved with community life in Juneau, with particular commitment to language preservation and the education and mentorship of young people — Native and non-Native alike.

“This is an incredible loss for so many,” said Sealaska Board Chair Joe Nelson. “I am personally thankful for the time I had with him. I am especially thankful for the time so many of our kids had with him, including my own kids. Kingeistí set the bar higher for all of us. He did it with passion, grace and love.” 

Katzeek was the first president of Sealaska Heritage Foundation, and served as a traditional scholar for Sealaska Heritage Institute for nearly 20 years. He served on the Sealaska board of directors from 1979 to 1981. He worked with others to help implement the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and was an advocate for many other legislative changes impacting Alaska Native people. He also worked closely with public schools in Juneau and educated teachers, support staff, administrators, and community and school board members on the rich history and culture of Alaska.

Katzeek learned Lingít from his grandparents, and his dedication to speaking the language and transmitting the cultural values contained in its words and phrases was a source of inspiration for the establishment of Sealaska’s $10 million language endowment. Many young Tlingit children heard their first words in Lingít from Katzeek. His is among several voices featured on the first-ever Tlingit language app, “Learning Tlingit,” released in 2016 by Sealaska Heritage Institute.

He was recognized by the Juneau School District and the Alaska Legislature in 2019 for his work with the Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy program. A Juneau Empire article about this honor quoted Katzeek expressing his relationship to the Lingít language as follows:

“When I begin to look at the root of a word, and really get in connection with the word, the intimacy, the admiration of a word, and how it was placed. Almost like an artist placing something, to enhance something someone else might experience. I sense the presence of my ancestors … when I start reading something, looking at something that came from my grandfather’s people, I’m listening to their heartbeat, that’s the reason I like what I do.”

Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott praised Katzeek’s role as a leader and cultural guide.

“Whether you personally knew David Katzeek or not, if you are Tlingit — if you are Indigenous to Southeast Alaska, or if you just value this land and these waters — you are the beneficiary of the wisdom he cultivated and shared,” Mallott said. “He has long been a source of personal inspiration and guidance, particularly because of the way he embodied our Elders’ commitment to future generations. I trust his family will be comforted by all the love and gratitude that is being shared about this great man throughout our homelands.”


Latest News

Sealaska Partners with AWARE

Posted 10/14/2021

#NativeEnough Discussion Series Shares Shareholder Perspectives on Blood Quantum

Posted 10/13/2021

UK Retailers Recognize New England Seafood’s Sustainability Practices with Prestigious MSC Award

Posted 10/12/2021

Q&A on Sealaska’s CARES Act Distribution in Partnership with Tlingit & Haida

Posted 10/5/2021

CARES Act Application Update – 11:10 a.m. Alaska Time

Posted 10/4/2021

Sealaska Refines Ocean-Based Foods Portfolio to Focus on Consumer-Centric, Chilled Seafood

Posted 10/1/2021

Sealaska to Partner with Tlingit & Haida to Distribute CARES Act Funds

Posted 9/30/2021

Sealaska Marks National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools with Juneau Event

Posted 9/29/2021

ICYMI Watch | Tlatsini Journey of the Taku Kwan

Posted 9/28/2021

#SealaskaWayOfLife Photo Contest Winners Announced

Posted 9/24/2021

Sealaska Joins Partners in Announcing New Funding Source for Community Economic Development in Southeast

Posted 9/16/2021

Sealaska Shareholder Retires After 23-Year Law Enforcement Career in Alaska

Posted 9/1/2021

Sealaska’s $4.2 Million CARES Act Allocation: Part of a Larger Pool of Funding to Benefit Southeast Alaska Natives

Posted 8/31/2021

Land Management Training for Youth

Posted 8/23/2021

Sealaska Mourns the Loss of Xaad kíl Birth Speaker Jane Kristovich (K’ujúuhl)

Posted 8/20/2021