Willard Hagen is of Gwich’in ancestry and was born in Tsiigehtchic, raised in the Travaillant River area, and completed his formal education in Wildlife Management in Inuvik. Mr. Hagen established Aklak Air in the late 1970s and has been a bush pilot and owner/operator for 30 years. Mr. Hagen was the Director of the Métis Development Corporation from 1978 to 1980. He was elected President of the Gwich’in Tribal Council in 1990 where his administration negotiated, ratified, and signed the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1992). He was also active in drafting and signing the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act(1998). As the President of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, Mr. Hagen also served as the President of the Gwich’in Development Corporation and as a Member of the Gwich’in Arbitration Panel. In 1996, Willard became a member of the Gwich’in Land and Water Board (GLWB), and in 2002 he became the Chair. In 2005, along with carrying out his duties as Chair of the GLWB, Mr. Hagen became Acting Chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.
In November 2010, Willard was re-appointed for a second consecutive three-year term as the Chair/CEO of the MVLWB by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.