Eben Hopson Inupiat Day

Maniilaq Association recognizes November 7th as Eben Hopson Inupiat Day.

In 1956, Eben was elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature and when Alaska became a state, he was elected to the first State Senate. He served in the Senate until 1965 as Chairman of the Labor and Management Committee.

In 1965, Eben helped organize Alaska’s first regional land claims organization which entered an aboriginal claim to all of the traditional land of the Arctic Slope Inupiat. He became the first Executive Director of the Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) which launched the Alaska Native Land Claims movement that year. In 1968, after serving as the first Vice-President of the Alaska Federal of Natives (AFN), Hopson moved to Anchorage to become its Executive Director. Under his direction, the AFN became a strong, well-financed federation of the native regional associations of all Alaska. During that time, he launched the Washington, D.C. native land claims lobby that secured the enactment of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act in 1971 which awarded the Alaskan regional and village corporations a cash settlement of nearly $1 billion and title to roughly forty million acres.

Eben left the AFN to become Special Assistant for Native Affairs to Governor William Egan in 1970. From his desk in the Governor’s Office, Hopson insured the State’s cooperation with the Arctic Slope Native Association to organize the North Slope Borough: a plan that would provide the 4,000 residents of Alaska’s eight most northerly villages with the advantages of a county-type home rule municipality, one that would encompass 88,000 square miles, reaching from the Canadian border to Point Hope on the Chukchi Sea, from the Arctic coast to the crest of the Brooks Range. Revenues would come from the billion-dollar tax base growing on the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. In 1972, Eben left the Governor’s Office to campaign for voter approval of the organization of the North Slope Borough, and for the office of Borough Mayor, to which he was elected.

Substandard housing in the Arctic had been tolerated too long, according to Hopson. Housing was the single greatest social problem on the Arctic slope in 1972, and both the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the North Slope Borough responded. Upon incorporation, Hopson sold $13.7 million in municipal bonds to finance the construction of public housing for low-income families. The project was plagued with setbacks which included the capsizing of supply barges on the Alaska coast, and ice conditions at Nome which prevented passage of other barges for months. Once the supplies arrived, much time was taken hiring and training the local hire personnel which Eben demanded for the housing construction. But with persistence, Hopson saw the homes built and finally won the financial participation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) in the NSB housing project.