"Under the stimulation of the controversy generated by the selection of Native lands by the state, the Eskimos of Northwest Alaska have united to preserve and ensure the continued use and occupation of their traditional lands." - Qipqiña John Schaeffer, President and CEO NANA Regional Corporation 1972-1984, first press release issued by the Northwest Arctic Native Association (predecessor of NANA Regional Corporation).
The NANA shareholder community is in mourning with the passing of a talented and transformative leader, NANA’s first President/CEO, Qipqiña John Schaeffer. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with his wife Maqik (Mary), his nine children, 36 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and numerous family and friends throughout the region, state, and world.
Qipqiña was a man of resolve, courage, and vision. He was willing to lead in times of uncertainty and lived a life of service to his people and his nation. As a soldier, he defended the country he loved. As NANA’s first Chief Executive Officer and President, he was committed to his people and the protection and advancement of future generations of Northwest Alaska Iñupiat.
Many recall how NANA began in John and Mary’s Kotzebue home in 1966. John and Mary invited a group of friends to their house where the group adopted the first Articles of the Northwest Alaska Native Association and the first officers were elected. Through the Northwest Arctic Native Association, John worked with others to safeguard our ancestral lands and helped to set in motion the land claims movement that would result in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
As NANA’s first president, John set in place subsistence protections so that the land would remain for the people. He guided the company through the responsible development of the Red Dog Mine, creating a source of Western wealth on which to build the region and benefit shareholders.
Among his greatest accomplishments was his work to protect the Iñupiaq Values. When the unwanted aspects of the Western world reached the shores of Northwest Alaska, Qipqiña and others sought the guidance of the Elders to connect our people with traditional ways of knowing as we were dealing with changes. The result of this effort was the formalization of the Iñupiat Ilitquisait – that which makes us who we are.
Because of John and the early leaders, the land and knowledge of the NANA region are ours and we are firmly in control of our destiny. He was a great Hunter for us all. His legacy is written in the future of our people, a future he worked a lifetime to ensure.