Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Ethel Ross Oliver

Ethel Ross Oliver

Born in 1914, Ethel Ross Oliver came to Alaska with her first husband when his doctor recommended a vigorous outdoor occupation as a cure for respiratory illness. For ten years, they trapped in the Rainy Pass area of the the Alaska Range. After her husband's death, Oliver returned to school, received a degree in education, and began her career as a teacher. Ethel Ross married Simeon "Nutchuk" Oliver, an Aleut writer, in 1943. In 1946, the couple moved to Atka village in the Aleutians; Ethel to teach school and Simeon to act as a liaison between the government and the villagers. In 1950, Ethel Ross Oliver served as a federal census taker for the Arctic region in Alaska. Her duties took her among the inland Eskimo of Anaktuvuk Pass known as the Nunamiut. Oliver corresponded for many years with Simon Paneak, a Nunamiut leader, as well as others from the area. Oliver returned to teach in Anaktuvuk Pass in 1956. Ethel Ross Oliver started the first kindergarten in Anchorage in 1939, introduced the Head Start program to Fairview Elementary School, hosted a Saturday television show for children from 1953 to 1965, and helped draft the first minimum wage law for Alaska teachers. Oliver retired from teaching in 1963 and moved to Eugene, Oregon. She received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1978, and is the author of Favorite Eskimo Tales Retold (Alaska Pacific University Press, 1992). Ethel Ross Oliver passed away in 1995.

Ethel Ross Oliver appears in the following new Jukebox projects: