As police investigate the sudden death of newly elected Juneau, Alaska Mayor Greg Fisk at age 70, he is being mourned by Inuit in Canada as one of the crafters of the first major land claims agreement in the north.
“I’m in shock,” said Canadian Senator Charlie Watt, Inuk, in a statement from the Makivik Corporation, the Quebec Inuit land claims organization. “When I met Greg more than 40 years ago I saw a person who was motivated and not a submissive person. He’s definitely in the history books of the Inuit of Nunavik.”
Watt hired Fisk in the early 1970s because of his expertise in the Alaskan Eskimo Land Claims process, The consultant and politician was instrumental in helping craft the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, a treaty addressing economic development, property issues. It also mapped out cultural and other institutions for those who lived in the covered communities.
November 11 was the treaty’s 40th anniversary, and it saw the release of a documentary that Fisk was involved in, Napagunnaqullusi (So That You Can Stand), which delved into the making of the agreement.
Fisk had just won election against incumbent Merrill Sanford by a 2–1 margin, according to the Juneau Empire. He was known for his straight shooting and prescience.
“He was never afraid to say what he thought,” said Jill Ramiel, president of the Downtown Business Association to the Juneau Empire. “He was a visionary. He was going to do such great things.”
The loss comes just as the land claims agreement was being celebrated and its knowledge handed down to a new generation, Inuit officials said.
“Many of our youth are just learning about the trail blazers who negotiated our land claims agreement in 1975,” said Makivik President Jobie Tukkiapik in the statement. “To hear one of the negotiators has died during this time is unexpected and we want his family in Alaska to know his legacy in Canada will live on.”
Fisk was found on December 1 by his son Ian Fisk at about 3:30 p.m., Alaska Public Radio reported. Police said his body had sustained injuries, and were investigating as Fisk was autopsied. His death did not appear to be suicide, police said.
The family expressed gratitude for the outpouring of public sentiment.
"We sincerely appreciate the support of the community and we recognize that, as would be the case with any public figure, his death brings a lot of attention," Ian Fisk told CBC News via e-mail. "At this time we have no reason to speculate as to the cause of his death and are awaiting the results of his autopsy.”
Poster: via Nunatsiaq News
Poster for the documentary about the crafting and signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec land claims agreement. Juneau Mayor Greg Fisk participated.