Willie Hensley sailed aboard the Coral Princess this month.

Willie Hensley, respected Native leader and former state legislator, was a special guest lecturer aboard the May 18 sailing of the Coral Princess. Hensley provided passengers with his unique perspective on growing up in pre-statehood Alaska, the history of Alaska’s establishment as a state and the Alaska Native Land Claims Act, which resulted in the formation of Alaska’s Native Corporations.

Hensley also spoke about growing up above the Arctic Circle in a sod hut on the permafrost, and his experiences with subsistence hunting and fishing in the 1940s.

“We’re honored that Willie Hensley accepted our invitation to share his rich and colorful experiences with our passengers,” said Charlie Ball, senior vice president of Princess Cruises and president of Princess Tours, who added that this will be Hensley’s only cruise ship appearance this summer. “His personal perspective surely added to their understanding and appreciation for this amazing state.”

In addition to his roles in the Alaska state legislature, Hensley was Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Economic Development, and served on the Oil and Gas Policy Council, the board of the Alaska Railroad Corporation and the board of the Alaska Industrial Development Authority.

The author of a book about his childhood in pre-statehood Alaska, Hensley was also available to sign copies of his memoir, “Fifty Miles from Tomorrow.” The book, his personal account of growing up pre-pipeline Alaska, paints a picture of a state that is very different from today.

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