A Devoted Public Servant and Perpetual Advocate for the North Slope Iñupiat
Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) mourns the loss of Board Member and North Slope Iñupiat leader Dr. Oliver Aveogan Leavitt, who died on the evening of January 9, 2023 in Utqiaġvik at the age of 79, surrounded by family. A whaling captain, fierce champion for the rights of the North Slope Iñupiat, devoted public servant and avid Barrow Whalers fan, Dr. Leavitt was a massively influential force in the growth of ASRC, and a perpetual advocate for the rights of the people of the North Slope.
A lifelong resident of Utqiaġvik, Alaska, Dr. Leavitt married Annie Hopson Leavitt and together they had three children. He grew up in camps and villages along Alaska’s Arctic coast, leaving to serve in the United States Army in Vietnam. Dr. Leavitt’s return to the North Slope coincided with the Alaska Native land claims fight and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)—and his impact was monumental.
“Oliver’s lifetime of service to his country, his people and most importantly, his family will never be forgotten.” said Rex A. Rock Sr., ASRC president and CEO. “We are eternally grateful for his hard work and sacrifice over the last fifty years. On behalf of the North Slope Iñupiat, we thank Oliver’s loved ones for sharing him with us. His passing leaves a void in the hearts of our people and those across the state. We send our heartfelt prayers to Annie, his children and all of his loved ones.”
“Our friend, Oliver had a vision for the future that will continue to inspire generations of North Slope Iñupiat,” added Crawford Patkotak, ASRC board chairman. “His mentorship to so many of our people over the decades keeps alive his commitment to the North Slope Iñupiat and is the legacy he leaves behind. We thank Oliver for his humble devotion to his people and offer our deepest sympathies and continued prayers of peace and comfort to his family.”
Dr. Leavitt served in innumerable leadership positions on the North Slope and across Alaska, serving on ASRC’s board, including as board chairman, and in senior management positions since its inception in 1972. That same year, he was elected as the first president of the North Slope Borough Assembly–-a position he held for four years, followed by an additional twenty years of service on the Assembly. Dr. Leavitt also served on the boards of the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Alaska Federation of Natives, among many others. He served as ASRC’s Vice President of Lands and Vice President of Government Affairs, carrying the message of North Slope Iñupiat economic self-determination to state legislators in Juneau and policymakers in Washington, D.C.
His time in our nation’s capital led to the passage of a number of amendments to ANCSA that improved the law for future generations of Alaska Natives. He also helped enact legislation that authorized development on North Slope lands, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for the long-term economic benefit of the region’s eight communities and the state of Alaska. Throughout his decades of service to the North Slope Iñupiat, Dr. Leavitt served alongside numerous members of the ASRC board of directors, including the late Dr. Jacob Anaġi Adams, whom he considered one of his closest friends.
Dr. Leavitt is survived by his beloved wife, Annie Hopson Leavitt, his two daughters, Mary Lou and Martina (Jamie), daughter-in-law, Doreen, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his and Mrs. Leavitt’s son, William Jens Leavitt.
A mentor to many, from the halls of Congress to the trails out on the ice, Dr. Leavitt was looked upon as a friend and confidant by national leaders and Alaskans, from the smallest village to the largest city. Dr. Leavitt occupied a special place in Alaska’s history and in the hearts of those who called him a friend. Memorial details will be shared once available.