Mary Peltola Wins Special Election, Becoming the First Alaska Native Elected to Congress

Sep 5, 2022Congressional Legislation, News

Last week, Mary Peltola, a Yup’ik Alaska Native, was declared the winner in a special election for Alaska’s at large Congressional seat, which became vacant when Rep. Don Young passed away in March. Rep. Young, a Republican, held the seat for 49 years, from 1973 until his death in 2022, making him the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.

Peltola, a Democrat, beat former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin in the special election, making her the first Alaska Native elected to Congress. Since the election was only for the remainder of Rep. Young’s term, they will both be on the ballot again in November of this year.

According to her campaign website, Peltola is a salmon advocate who represented the Bethel region in Alaska’s House of Representatives for 10 years. She was born in Alaska and raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel. She began fishing commercially with her father when she was six years old and later worked as a herring and salmon technician for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

After leaving the state legislature, she worked as a Manager of Community Development and Sustainability for the Donlin gold mine project, leaving the company after six years to join the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. As Executive Director of the Commission, she helped mobilize 118 Tribes and rural Alaskans to advocate for the protection of salmon runs in Western Alaska.

She also served on the Orutsararmiut Native Council Tribal Court and the Bethel City Council, and on the boards of the Nature Conservancy, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Children’s Trust, and the Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska.

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