Tlingit elder Harvey B. Marvin, of Juneau, has died at the age of 81.
Marvin grew up in Hoonah, worked for the public health service in Sitka and was the state of Alaska’s first Native auditor.
He was born in 1933 in Excursion Inlet to Lillian Pratt Marvin Smith, who was of the Kaagwaantaan clan, and John Marvin, of the T’ak Dein Taan clan, and a grandchild of the Chookaneidi. He was one of their 12 children.
He went to Mt. Edgecumbe High School, business school in Chicago and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Korean War.
Native land claims
Marlene Johnson grew up with Marvin in Hoonah.
“We were of opposite clans. He was an Eagle and I was a Raven, but we were good friends,” she says with a chuckle.
That friendship came in handy during the years they would work together on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Marvin and Johnson were among the five members of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council Executive Committee to lobby Congress. When ANCSA passed in 1971, Huna-Totem was created as the Hoonah village corporation.
Marvin was appointed corporation treasurer. Johnson was a board member.
“He was at every meeting and worked with us as we looked at the history, and doing the land claims and other important things for the corporation,” she says.
These were complicated issues. Johnson says Marvin was just the guy to explain them.
“He was very fluent in Tlingit, so he could explain it in Tlingit to the elders that didn’t understand English that well,” Johnson says.
As they met with new shareholders in Hoonah and other parts of Southeast, she says Marvin also listened well, so he could tell the board what Huna-Totem members wanted in their corporation.
Marvin later transitioned from treasurer to board member, serving 19 years. He was a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and active with Tlingit and Haida. In 2005, he was named Citizen of the Year by the Central Council for what the organization called his “extreme dedication” to the Alaska Native community.
“He was with and very loyal to Tlingit-Haida Central Council since the ’60s,” says Edward Thomas, who was Central Council president at the time.
Lisa Worl keeps the family tree for her large family. She always called Harvey Marvin great grandfather, though he was actually her great uncle.
Worl is on the Juneau School Board. Marvin and his late wife Lillian were there when she was sworn into office.
She can recite the work Marvin has done for his people through Native organizations, as a Sitka Assembly member, and other political involvement.
Harvey and Lillian Marvin were Democrats and “super voters,” she says.
“It was more a matter of civic duty and always making sure the family was aware of the issues and make sure they voted. They never pushed any people but obviously they had their people they were supporting,” Worl says.
Former Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula was one of them. Kerttula got to know Marvin when her father, Jay Kerttula, was a state senator and chairman of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. Marvin was the auditor.
Years later, when Beth Kerttula ran for Juneau’s downtown seat in the state House, Marvin sat her down for a tutorial on the nuts and bolts of Juneau politics.
“He had almost every twist and turn and nuance, and knew the groups I needed to reach out to and knew the people I needed to go talk to,” she recalls.
But it didn’t stop there. Both Marvins worked hard on all five of her campaigns and were in the gallery at the state capitol when she took the oath of office.
Kerttula calls him an astute politician.
“You know I think Harvey would have been governor or U.S. Senator in a different day,” she says. “He just had that kind of talent and ability.”
More importantly, she says, the Marvins set a great example of how to be good human beings.
Lillian Marvin passed away in February, just after the couple celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary.
“The two love birds are back together,” Worl says.
A memorial service for Harvey Marvin is Saturday at 3 p.m. at Alaska Memorial Park on Riverside Drive. A private family viewing is 1 p.m.
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