Native rights advocate dies at age 72

Michael Dennis Mahsetky, 72, of Norman, Oklahoma, died on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Oklahoma City. (Photo courtesy of Julianna Brannum)

Indian Country Today

Michael Dennis Mahsetky's 'endless accomplishments made his family very proud and his exuberant personality drew in everyone who met him'

Michael Dennis Mahsetky, 72, of Norman, Oklahoma, went to his heavenly home on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Michael was born on July 18, 1947, in Lawton, Oklahoma, to Mack and Annetta Parriaeckivit Mahsetky. He graduated from Lawton High School before earning his BS in Business at the University of Texas at Arlington. He then moved to Washington, D.C., where he earned his Juris Doctorate Degree at Antioch School of Law.

Michael passionately lobbied for various congressional bills and legislation as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Indian Health Service until his retirement in 2014. He began his career with the IHS in 1988 as Chief of the Legislative Branch in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Legislation at the IHS Headquarters. Before joining the IHS legislative team, he served seven years as a staff attorney with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and worked closely with Native rights activist LaDonna Harris throughout his time in D.C. 

From 1969 to 1980, Michael lived in the Dallas, Texas, area before entering law school, working tirelessly to educate the state of Texas who ultimately recognized the need for health care funding for urban Indians. He helped establish the Dallas Inter-Tribal Health Center and later served as its director. He also served on numerous health and human rights advocacy organizations such as the Greater Dallas Human Relations Commission and was dubbed an "Outstanding Citizen" by the City of Dallas for his contributions to improving the lives of Indian people. Later he worked on the first authorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. 

Michael was also an avid lover of the arts and helped establish the Dallas Minority Repertory Theater and later served as its Executive Director. He also presented a reading of the Richard Dreyfuss film, “Mr. Holland’s Opus” at the world-renowned Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. 

His endless accomplishments made his family very proud and his exuberant personality drew in everyone who met him. His witty sense of humor and joyous attitude balanced his hard work as an advocate for Native rights. His passion for his work and his love of life, family and friends will mark the memories of all those that were lucky enough to have been in his presence. 

Michael is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mary Eve Mahsetky, sisters Lana Brannum and Marcelene James, brothers Marsey Mahsetky, Jr. and Mark Mahsetky, grandson Tabe Poolaw, and numerous nieces, nephews, extended family members and friends.

Michael is preceded in death by daughter Wendy Mahsetky Poolaw, parents Mack and Annetta Mahsetky, sisters: Libby Stockton, Rebecca Mahsetky and brothers Gary Mahsetky and Larry Mahsetky.

Funeral service will be held at the Comanche Nation Funeral Home at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 3, 2020, with Rev. David Wilson officiating. Burial will be at Deyo Mission Cemetery under the direction of the Comanche Nation.

ICT Phone Logo
Comments

Obituaries

FEATURED
COMMUNITY