Telling Alaska’s Story: The long legacy of Nick Begich

Telling Alaska’s Story: The long legacy of Nick Begich
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:53 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2022 at 8:21 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The disappearance of Nick Begich Sr., a former congressman for Alaska, is a popular topic on cable paranormal shows and podcasts. It’s hard to have a conversation about him without the subject coming up.

In 1972, Alaska’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was running for re-election. He was campaigning in Alaska and headed from Anchorage to a rally in Juneau aboard a small plane. Also on the flight were a Begich aide, the pilot and Congressman Hale Boggs from Louisiana.

The aircraft never made it to Juneau. It and its four occupants disappeared without a trace. But there is more to Begich’s legacy than how he vanished.

Begich, a Democrat, was elected to the Alaska Senate in 1962. With a background as an educator, it was no surprise that education was part of his platform.

“He had a role in helping define our education system for the state of Alaska” according to his son, Tom Begich. He served in roles as a “college instructor, school teacher, counselor and superintendent,” Tom Begich said.

In 1970, Nick Begich was elected to the U.S. House. As a freshman congressman, he had the huge task of pushing a bill through congress that would have a big impact on the future of Alaska. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. It helped set up the 13 regional Native corporations and gave them each land.

This paved the way for getting land to use for the route of the trans-Alaska pipeline, and the royalties from the oil moving from the pipeline would eventually lead to the establishment of the Alaska Permanent Fund and its dividends.

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that Nick Begich was elected to the U.S. House through the normal process in 1970. He was elected posthumously in 1972.

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