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Lavell Wilson was born in Freewater, Oregon in 1937. He moved to Northway, Alaska around 1948 when his father brought the family to Alaska. At the time of his 2013 interview, Lavelle and his wife, Catherine, were living in Tok, Alaska. His father was a trapper and hunter, so he grew up living a subsistence lifestyle in Northway and the surrounding area. Lavell worked in the construction business as an operator, and also was a pilot and guide taking hunters into the Chisana, Nabsena, Northway, and Forty-Mile areas. In 1972, he served one term in the House of Reprsentatives of the Alaska State Legislature.