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Mary Jane (Evans) Fate

Photo of Mary Jane (Evans) Fate
Categories: 2014 Alumnae, Native Leader


Born Sept. 4, 1933, Mary Jane (Evans) Fate, a Koyukon Athabascan born in Rampart, labored tirelessly to improve all aspects of Alaska Native people’s lives. As one of the original Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lobbyists, she worked with others to convince the White House and Congress of the fairness and justice in conveying 40 million acres and $1 billion to Alaska Native peoples through the passage of the Native claims act in 1971.

After graduating from Mt. Edgecumbe boarding high school in Sitka in 1952 she went on to become one of the first Native women to attend college at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks where she studied accounting. Because of her numerous accomplishments, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from UAF in 1992.

Fate was recognized for her leadership abilities by becoming the first woman co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1988-89. She served on her Alaska Native village corporation board, the Rampart Village Corporation (Baan O Yeel Kon), since its inception in 1972 until recently and was its president for many years. She is also a founding member and past president of the Fairbanks Native Association.

She helped found the North American Indian Women’s Association and in 1975 was its third national president. She directed a national research project which was presented to Congress and made an impact on the treatment and care of Indian children and women.

The Alaska Natives Commission was created by Congress in 1990 at the urging of many Alaska Native groups. The first meeting was held in 1992 and within months Fate and Perry Eaton were named co-chairs. They led the commission’s two-year study, including holding nine regional hearings across the state which produced a three-volume report designed to serve as a blueprint for change regarding the way the federal and state governments deal with Alaska Native issues. Co-Chair Fate stated: “Above all else, the Commission focused on the needs of people. If the world can make drastic changes overnight for rights for animals, bugs and even future fashion styles, we surely must and can make great changes for our Alaska Natives.”

Appointed at the end of 2001 by President George H.W. Bush, Fate served as the only indigenous member on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission for a little more than four years with her last meeting held in June 2006, USARC’s 80th meeting which was held in Barrow, Alaska. This Commission, formed in 1984, was to establish a national policy for scientific research in the Arctic including its natural resources and its Arctic residents, to obtain the broadest possible view of Arctic research needs and then to communicate its policy recommendations to the President and Congress.

In 2003 President George W. Bush appointed her as a member of the U.S. Census Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Populations to expand the committee’s awareness of Alaska issues, enabling it to better respond and advise the Census Bureau on this population.

Fate played an important role in numerous organizations helping found several, including the Tundra Times and the Institute of Alaska Native Arts.

In 2012 Fate was honored by her Native regional corporation, Doyon, with their most prestigious award, Citizen of the Year: “for her leadership, strong commitment, competence and sensitivity in the educational and cultural survival of Alaska Natives.” At the award ceremony Georgianna Lincoln said: “Fate was one of the early Alaska Native women leaders, and her obvious outer beauty never affected the woman’s inner beauty.”

Her achievements do not stop at serving only her people. Fate was among four prominent Americans honored nationally for promotion of cancer awareness in 1998. She and Nancy Murkowski, wife of then-U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, along with Sam Donaldson, ABC News White House correspondent, and Sue Ann Thompson, wife of Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, were chosen to receive the awards. Fate’s was given because she was long an advocate for educating the public about the value of prevention and early detection in the fight against cancer. During the 1970s and at the height of the oil pipeline construction, mammograms were very difficult for women to obtain. She, along with Nancy Murkowski and other Fairbanks women, organized to solve the problem. Through their efforts, the Breast Cancer Detection Center, a non-profit organization, opened in 1976 to provide education and mammograms to interior Alaska women regardless of their ability to pay.

Fate served as director on the Alaska Airlines board for 25 years, the first 23 years as the only woman to do so. Appointed by Governor Hickel, she was the first woman and first Alaska Native to serve on the Alaska Judicial Council from 1981 to 1987. This body screens and nominates judicial applicants and evaluates the performance of judges making their evaluations available to the voters. Hickel also appointed her a Regent for the University of Alaska where she served from 1993 through 2001. She has also served on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education and the Alaskan Command Civilian Advisory Board.

Sheila Justice, president, Rampart Village Council says: “Mary Jane is a gracious, caring, kind person who has helped numerous individuals, from providing a home for those in need, to writing letters of recommendations for jobs and scholarships. She is admired for her contribution to the advancement of the Alaska Native community and the well being of women in particular and her kindness and grace toward people from all walks of life. She is a role model for Alaska Native women and for all women.”

Mary Jane Fate married Dr. Hugh “Bud” Fate and together they have raised three daughters and her cousin and the couple now has a dozen grandchildren.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech