Our Founder – Walter J. Hickel

Walter J. Hickel served as Governor of Alaska 1966-1969, 1990-1994, and also as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1969-1970.

During the 1950s he played a major role in the fight to get 103 million acres included in Alaska’s statehood land entitlement, while developing hotels, housing, and shopping centers in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Seward. During the 1960s, as the state’s second governor, he pushed to open Prudhoe Bay to oil development. As a businessman, he built the Hotel Captain Cook, which is today one of the largest individually-owned hotels in the world. He was named Alaskan of the year in 1969.

As Secretary of the Interior in President Nixon’s cabinet, and afterwards, as a national figure in the 1970s, he oversaw the basic permitting process for the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline and helped gain the votes in Congress necessary to get the pipeline going. He played a key role in the settlement of Alaska Native Land Claims, and spoke out nationally for the 200-mile limit to protect Alaska’s fisheries.

In 1990, he was again elected governor. In his second term he settled the Exxon Valdez lawsuits, and the billion-dollar fund collected was used to buy land and support science in Prince William Sound, Kachemak Bay, and on Kodiak and Afognak Islands. Hickel played a major role in the establishment of the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. He pushed for establishment of community development quotas, a form of Individual Fishing Quotas that has become a model for fish caught in the North Pacific. He also took the problem of by-catch fish waste to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where he was the only governor asked to speak. As governor, he collected over $4 billion in long overdue taxes and royalties from oil producers on state land.

Having founded the Institute of the North, Gov. Hickel devoted much of his time to teaching people in Alaska and from around the globe about the obligations of ownership. It is his vision, his courage and his leadership to which the Institute responds today. His commitment to the Institute included establishing an endowment to ensure its sustainability. Contact us for more information about how to support his legacy through the Institute of the North endowment.

Hickel died May 7, 2010 and was buried standing up, ready to come out fighting for Alaska; as he had always promised.