IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

Congressman Don Young

A congressman for all Alaska

, Congressman Don Young was re-elected to the 109th Congress in 2004 to serve his 17th term as Alaska’s only Representative to the United States House of Representatives. His tenure in office is rooted in his deep love for Alaska and the nation, and his vision to provide all citizens the opportunity for a better life not just today, but well into the future. His love and vision are the foundation for his decision to continue to serve Alaskans in the United Sates Congress.

First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young is today the 3rd ranking Republican member and the 8th ranking overall member of the House of Representatives. He chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congress’ largest committee with 75 members. He is also an influential member of the House Resources Committee, a committee he chaired during the 104th, 105th, and 106th Congresses. Finally, he is a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. Together, these three committees have a direct and significant impact on Alaska and Alaskans. Teamed with Alaska’s Senators, Congressman Young continues to sponsor legislation and programs benefiting Alaska and the nation — today and into the future.

Congressman Young’s home is a stone’s throw from Alaska’s Yukon River in Fort Yukon, Alaska, a remote village of approximately 700 people located 7 miles above the Arctic Circle in Alaska’s central interior region. Born on June 9, 1933 in Meridian, California, he earned his associate degree at Yuba Junior College in 1952, and his bachelor’s degree in teaching at Chico State College in 1958. Between earning these degrees, he served in the US Army’s 41st Tank Battalion from 1955 to 1957.

He grew up on the family farm where his parents and brothers fostered and nurtured his love for learning and spirit of adventure. He often reflects that as a youth, his favorite book was Jack London’s Call of the Wild, a book that would enliven his imagination and eventually lure him to the Alaskan frontier in 1959. When first moving to Alaska, he made a living in construction and tried his hand at commercial fishing, trapping, and even a search for gold. In Fort Yukon he answered a calling as a teacher and mentor to a 25-student, 5th grade elementary class in the Bureau of Indian Affairs school. Constructed of logs, the school had a wood stove that kept his Alaska Native students warm in the sub-freezing, arctic winter. He taught in the winter and with the annual spring break-up of the river ice, he captained his own tug and barge operation to deliver products and supplies to villages along the Yukon River. Even today, he remains the only licensed mariner in Congress.

It was in Fort Yukon that Don Young’s search for gold was most successful. He found his life’s “golden nugget” when he met and married a young bookkeeper named “Lula.” Lu Young has been at Congressman Young’s side since then and supported him throughout his public service career. Married now for over 40 years, they are blessed with and raised two daughters – Joni and Dawn — and have 10 grandchildren.

Congressman Young first entered public service in 1964 when he was elected Mayor of Fort Yukon. Two years later, Alaskan voters elected him to the State Legislature in Juneau where he would first serve his rural constituents in the State House from 1966-1970, and later in the State Senate from 1970 to 1973. Just hours after being sworn in to United States House of Representatives in 1973, he found himself leading a historic battle for approval of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. Often citing this as the single most important achievement in his career, Congressman Young stated, “Next to statehood itself, the most historical legislation passed that affected every Alaskan then, now, and in the future, was the passage of the pipeline legislation.”

That same year, his colleagues honored him as the “Freshman Congressman of the Year.” He went on to gain key appointments on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and pushed through the 200-mile fishing limit critical to Alaska’s fishing industry. He fought against federal control of lands and resources to which Alaskans are rightfully entitled – a battle he continues today with the same vigor. In 1997, he passed, by 419-1, the National Wildlife Improvement Act, which sets guidelines for the nation’s 500-plus wildlife refuges. Finally, Congressman Young continues to push for Alaska Native jobs, education, health care, and subsistence programs.

Congressman Young is proud to serve as the “Congressman for All Alaska” and loves his role as the only Alaskan Representative in Congress. In the recent 2004 election, he received 211,258 votes — the largest number of votes ever cast for a single candidate in Alaska. Renewed by the challenges and goals of the 109th Congress, Congressman Young will continue to champion legislation and funding for programs benefiting Alaska and the nation. His vision remains the same – to provide citizens with the opportunity for a better life not just for today, but also for tomorrow and the future.