22 MAY 1978
Eben Hopson, Mayor of the North Slope of Alaska was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in May of 1978 from Buena Vista College, Storm Lake, Iowa, during its Commencement. Hopson received his degree from Dr. Keith Briscoe, president of Buena Vista. The college accorded the honor to Hopson for his leadership of the people of the North Slope. Buena Vista is an independent college affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
Eben Hopson, the Mayor of the North Slope Borough in Alaska, has shown the American system works for the people who need it. At a time when many of our institutions are under attack, he has demonstrated the strength of local government as an agent of social progress.
In 1965, after a career in the Alaska Territorial Legislature and the State Senate, he helped organize Alaska’s regional land claims organization which entered a claim to aboriginal title to the traditional lands of the Inupiat of America’s Arctic coast. As Executive Director of the Alaska Federation of Natives, he secured the Native right to self-determination with his efforts leading to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. As Special Assistant for Native Affairs to Governor Egan, he promoted the development of local government in rural Alaska and in 1972 organized the North Slope Borough and was elected its first mayor.
Under his leadership, the North Slope Borough became an important political force in the Arctic. His administration won national recognition for its openness and creative programs. For the first time, the people of America’s Arctic area able to enjoy modern homes, schools, and utilities long taken for granted in other American communities.
Threatened by industrial development in the Arctic, he initiated the Arctic Coastal Zone Management Program which promotes international cooperation as the only means of protecting the fragile Arctic environment as a single ecosystem. He took a leading role in the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which promotes educational, economic, and cultural exchange between the Inuit communities of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
His battle to save aboriginal Inupiat subsistence bowhead whaling has established his status as a world leader in defending the basic human rights of aboriginal peoples all over the world.