Mary Jane Fate: Alaska Native Rights Leader
March 19, 2021
Alaska Native Rights leader Mary Jane (Evans) Fate (1933-2020) was born in Rampart, a Koyukon Athabascan village on the Yukon River. She attended high school at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Mount Edgecumbe boarding school in Sitka before becoming one of the first Alaska Native women to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she studied accounting.
Mary Jane was one of the original lobbyists for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, helping advocate for the legislation in Washington DC. Following the Settlement, she spent decades serving on the board of the Rampart Village Corporation. She helped found the Fairbanks Native Association and served as one of the first co-chairs on the Alaska Natives Commission, created by Congress in 1990. In Fairbanks, Fate co-founded the Breast Cancer Detection Center in the 1970s along with Nancy Murkowski. She also co-founded the Tundra Times newspaper. She served on many boards, including on the Alaska Airlines board for 25 years and on the University of Alaska Board of Regents for eight years. She served for four years as the only Indigenous member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and was a member of the U.S. Census Advisory Committee on Indigenous populations.
Because of her numerous accomplishments, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the UAF in 1992. In 2012, Doyon Ltd., the regional for-profit Native corporation for Interior Alaska, named her its Citizen of the Year. She was inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame in 2014. Mary Jane loved the outdoors, her culture, and her family. She led from a place of love and respect, and enjoyed teaching her children and grandchildren about Athabascan culture.
Photo credits: Anchorage Museum, Wien Collection, B1985.27.1938, and photo courtesy of Julie Fate SullivanD