Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska by Alaska Native Languages Center

By Rebecca Poulson

I’d like to acknowledge the Tlingit people, the owners and stewards of this land from time immemorial. Also, all of this is a work in progress and I would be grateful for any comments or corrections.

First, who was Alexandre Andreevich Baranov and what was his role in Alaska’s history?

Documents from his time were written from a certain perspective, and Baranov’s own writings were meant to put himself in a good light to his superiors. His 28-year career in Alaska was filled with complicated conflicts and what led up to them, and the motivations of the various parties, are impossible to fully know. That said, thanks to the quantity and variety of recorded observations, and scholarship based on them, we do have a good general idea of the man and his life in Alaska.

Alexander Baranov came out to Alaska in 1790 at age 44 to work as a manager for the Golikov-Shelikov fur trading company. This was in the second phase of Russian colonization. The first phase, from the 1740s into the 1780s was unregulated and violent, primarily of the Aleutian Islands and mainly for sea otter, by multiple independent fur companies. Unangan people fought back but Russians were all armed men, while the Unangan were defending elders and children and had no where to go. This had a devastating impact on the Native people of the Aleutians.

By the time Baranov came out, it was the next phase of colonization. Only a few companies were left and they relied on the forced labor of Unangan, Chugiak and Sugpiak men, who hunted sea mammals from baidarkas or kayaks. The Russians compelled others to provide food and gear for the Russian enterprise.

The Golikov-Shelikov company’s leader, Grigorii Shelikov, who hired Baranov, had a vision of permanent colonization of North America as a New Russia. Shelikov and his company brutally conquered Kodiak Island, with the idea of using the Native inhabitants as his forced labor work force. In 1799, this company was the basis of the Russian American Company, with a monopoly on trade and authorization to colonize North America on behalf of the Russian government.

In the 1790s Baranov’s projects were to consolidate control of Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, build some ships, and send out fleets of Native hunters for sea otter. This period was full of conflict, which included struggles with a competing company and with Native people on the mainland, but also within the company – between and among leadership and employees, both Native and Russian, with clergy and with Russian naval officers sent out to assist the enterprise. Shipwrecks were constant, which caused deaths directly and through starvation and scurvy when supplies did not arrive.

In 1796 Baranov negotiated with the Yakutat leaders to build a fur hunting base and an agricultural colony at Yakutat. His goal was to claim the North American coast down to Nootka on Vancouver Island. Behind this effort to claim territory was the goal of sustaining profit – they were running out of sea otter in western Alaska. In the later 1790s he sent fleets of hunters into southeastern Alaska, returning with thousands of pelts.

It is important to remember that North America was entirely owned and defended by Indigenous civilizations; southeast Alaska was Tlingit America. Also, the international maritime fur trade had started in the 1780s and by this time, the 1790s, was at its peak, and Sitka was a popular port, where maritime traders, mainly from the United State and England, participated in the preexisting Northwest Coast Indigenous trade which moved goods throughout Northwest America.

In 1799 Baranov negotiated with Kiks.adi leader Shk’awulyeil for a site for a fur hunting base at Gajaa Heen, north of Sitka. In 1802 a multi-clan Tlingit alliance destroyed this fort, and killed most of the hunters, over an accumulation of insults and crimes. It took until 1804, two years later, for Baranov and other employees on a few small ships, and some 800 Native hunters, in baidarkas, to meet up in Sitka Sound with the Russian frigate Neva.

The Kiks.adi, the primary clan of Sitka, meanwhile moved from their main fort at Noow Tlein (now also called Castle Hill) and built a fort called Shiskinoow at the mouth of Kaasdaa Heen or Indian River. This fort was nearly impenetrable, but, in a firefight between a canoe and a boat from the Neva. the Kiks.adi lost a canoe of gunpowder, and its crew of young leaders, There was a standoff with neither side able to inflict damage on the other, then finally the Kiks.adi evacuated Shiskinoow in what is called the Kiksadi Survival March and built a fort at Point Craven. The following year, 1805, Tlingit leaders made peace with the Russians, which included allowing the Russians to stay at Noow Tlein.

From 1804 until 1867 the Russians maintained a colony at Sitka, which grew to around 900 residents. From 1808 Sitka was the Russian American Company’s headquarters. Alexander Baranov was chief manager of the company until he was relieved from duty in 1818. He died at sea on his way back to Russia.

The Tlingit clans were always in control of all of their lands. Clans built immediately adjacent to the Russian town in 1829 into one consolidated settlement, but they had never left the area. Russians had no choice but to maintain good relations with Tlingit leaders. In 1855 a dispute led to an attack on the fort in which several Russians were killed, but the Russians instead of retaliating, blamed their manager and worked to make peace.

The Russian settlement at Sitka worked for both Tlingit and Russians. Even though their profits came mostly from southwestern Alaska, and they did not control southeastern Alaska, what mattered to the Russian American Company was to establish a claim to the coast in regards to other European nations and the United States. Tlingit clans benefited by having another market for furs, in addition to Americans and English. (Regional clans soon forced Russians to stop doing their own hunting.) Clan leaders also gained by supplying food and other products and sometimes working for the Russians. Very few Tlingit people converted to Russian Orthodoxy. There were some marriages between Russian men and Tlingit women.

Most of the people living in the Russian settlement were of mixed Russian and Unangan or Sugpiaq heritage. The Russian American Company was about resource extraction, not settlement, due to government policy as well as the Company’s need for profits. There were fewer than 1000 ethnic Russians in Alaska, total, over the entire period of Russians in Alaska.

From the historical documents, which include his own letters, it seems Baranov completely identified with his employer’s goals of profit and empire, and was absolutely focused in their pursuit, not sparing himself or anyone else. He does not seem to have been the kind of leader who took care of his people, judging by the various rebellions including murder plots, including one in Sitka in 1809. Instead, he led with force and charisma. Chaotic and potentially deadly confrontations in 1815 (when he was 68 years old) between Baranov, an American and a British trading ship and a Russian navy commander, that culminated in Baranov giving orders to fire at a departing Russian ship, hint that even later in life he was less diplomatic than most people.

His achievement was to hold Alaska against other European nations, and to bring in profit to the company. This came at a high cost in lives, and the colonies turned out to be expensive to maintain and impossible to defend, and were transferred to the United States in 1867. While he was certainly an unusual person, the myth had to be created.

The myth started early on, with Baranov himself, in letters to or that he knew would be read by his superiors, defending himself against accusations of cruelty to the Native people of the Aleutians and Kodiak, and blaming others for the many conflicts and adverse events. One example was when 115 hunters, on their way back to Kodiak from Sitka in 1799, died after eating paralytic shellfish poisoning-tainted mussels at Poison Cove in Peril Strait. He claimed in a letter that they had had plenty of provisions with them (for a journey of hundreds of miles, this is hard to believe) and so had no need to be eating mussels, making it seem like it was their own fault.i

His first biographer, Kiril Khlebnikov, was a long-time employee of the company who met Baranov at the end of his career and did his part to establish the myth of Baranov as a noble character who overcame great odds, including opposition by lesser individuals, giving a positive spin on actual events and laying the blame for everything on someone other than Baranov. One example is Baranov’s disastrous assault on the Tlingit fort in 1804, against the advice of the experienced Captain Lisianski of the Neva; in Khlebnikov’s account the failure of the assault was the fault of everyone but Baranov.ii

In Baranov’s era, the company’s profits, its very existence, relied on forced labor by Alaska Native men, who were Unangan, Chugiak and Sugpiak, from the Aleutians, the coastal mainland and Kodiak Island, hunting sea mammals from slender skin boats. Scores of hunters died on the expeditions, which extended into southern southeast Alaska, and the operation resulted in extreme hardship and starvation for those left at home. Those who couldn’t hunt also had to work for the benefit of the company, by getting food and making gear. The Russian Orthodox spiritual mission that first arrived at Kodiak in 1794 took the part of these Native workers, in a prolonged conflict between the church workers, certain employees, and a naval officer, against Baranov and his top assistants. In 1800-1801, some of the Kodiak villages refused to go on that season’s hunt. Baranov and his second in command put it down ruthlessly, beating and threatening to kill those who refused.

Foreign expeditions and traders, as well as some Russian observers, consistently described the exploitative treatment of Native people by the Russians in the Aleutians and Kodiak, that went to the point of starvation. That the company relied on forced labor, that this took an enormous toll on the Native population of Kodiak and other places, and that Baranov was ruthless in crushing rebellion are an inconvenient, and yet fundamental, aspect of his career that his biographers smooth over, justify, or ignore (and still do, in at least two biographies published this century).

According to Khlebnikov, Baranov “took wise and decisive action to put down the mutiny,” which would have spread and led to the loss of “everything they had achieved.”iii

This aspect of the myth was elaborated in H. H. Bancroft’s History of Alaska, published in 1886. At every point, Baranov is depicted as being in the right, bold and wise. The accusations of mistreatment of Native people and Russian workers are dismissed as “unfounded,”iv or “exaggerated.”v The authors assert that “As for the natives his influence over them was unbounded, chiefly through the respect with which his indomitable courage and constant presence of mind impressed them.”

Most of the section of Bancroft’s book on the Russian period was written by Ivan Petroff, a remarkable translator and writer, but also, as revealed in a 1968 article by Russian America scholar Richard Pierce, a serial fabricator. Pierce says that Petroff generally stayed close to the Russian sources, but did include a completely fabricated journal of a Russian Orthodox missionary, Father Juvenal. Most of the account of Baranov’s activities follows Khlebnikov and the official History of the Russian American Company by P. A. Tiknmenev. But the most vivid scenes are new. Father Juvenal’s fabricated journal describes Baranov joining in singing hymns “in the same hoarse voice with which he was shouting obscene songs the night before, when I saw him in the midst of a drunken carousal with a woman seated in his lap.” The section on Baranov ends with a passage from Washington Irving’s book Astoria, a quote supposed to come from the American trader who was involved in (and partly instigated) the chaotic events at Sitka in 1815, taking Baranov’s drinking and his irascibility to a heroic scale: “if you do not drink raw rum, and boiling punch as strong as sulfur, he will insult you as soon as he gets drunk, which will be very shortly after sitting down to table.”vi

Bancroft’s book was the main reference for Alaska’s Russian history for the next 90 years, until Limestone Press and others started publishing translations of original documents from the Russian era. Bancroft’s history was copied and freely embellished by writers throughout that period, further establishing the myth of Alexander Baranov.

C. L. Andrews published his book Sitka in 1922 and slightly revised it in 1944. It is aimed at the visitor to Sitka. While his portrayal of Baranov is clearly based on Bancroft’s, he adds incidents and detail that do not seem to have any basis in anything but his own imagination, or perhaps was lore handed down among the Russian descendants at Sitka.

The material he adds is about the relationship of Tlingit people to Baranov. Andrews exaggerates the hostility of these “strange, warlike, shrewd people”vii and portrays Baranov and other Russians as staying at Sitka only with their superior ability: “the Tlingits who howled at Sitka’s gates were utterly without conscience. Some of them came nearly every day to search for some unguarded and accessible means of attack, but Baranov was never off his guard.”viii “The Tlingits who slunk down through the tall spruce timber that surrounded the stockade hated him, but they feared and respected him. They felt he had superhuman power. They never caught him napping. They had destroyed Old Sitka, and butchered the people; they came to his portcullised gate and asked to come in. Baranov looked at them with level eyes.” He showed them his defenses, and “Not one of them dared to plot an attack while Baranov ruled at Sitka.”ix

This portrayal is an important change from previous accounts: In reality, Russians never had enough military force to not have to work to maintain diplomatic and trade relations with Tlingit leaders. If Tlingit leaders had wanted them out, they probably could have, but there was no reason to. Tlingit leaders did force out three, different Hudson’s Bay Company posts on the mainland that infringed on interior trade. The character of the relationship between the Russian American Company and Tlingit clans is clear in their letters to and from Sitka, published as A Construction History of Sitka, Alaska as Documented in the Records of the Russian American Company.x This is an important part of the myth: that Baranov was so superior to the Native people that he could hold them off with a much smaller force in spite of the Native people being extremely dangerous and unremittingly hostile, a worthy adversary.

Andrews enlarges the difference between the Russians and the Tlingit people. In the Russian documents of the period, Indigenous people are portrayed in their relationship to the goals of the company, as workers or as “hostile” and obstacles to expansion. But, in order to achieve their goals, Baranov and others on the ground had to have some understanding of their adversaries’ motivations and goals.

In Andrews’ portrayal, however, Tlingit people are reduced to a cartoon. Sometimes the “savagery in their blood would boil,”xi although the “Aleut” Native people were “gentle and indolent,”xii another stereotype.

While not directly to do with Baranov, Andrews paints a picture of the success of Russian occupation at Sitka that survives to this day. Russian captain Fyodor Litke described Russian Sitka in the late 1820s in detail, describing the hospitality of the governor, the gardens, food, and workshops. But Litke also told about the precarious nature of supply for the colony, and the shortage of manpower.xiii Andrews leaves that part out, giving the impression that Russian Sitka was better off than it was. He elaborates on the grand social life in the “castle,” and quotes a ghost story from travel writer Eliza Scidmore.xiv

Scidmore, in her Alaska, its Southern Coast and the Sitkan Archipelago of 1885, also used Litke, and also exaggerated his portrayal. From Litke’s telling that Sitka foundry cast some bells for California, she writes that “the bells of half the California mission churches were cast at the Sitka foundry.” She also tells of the courtly life in the “castle.” Litke wrote how firearms were a popular item of trade by the Russians to the Tlingit at this time. That certainly does not fit the myth, and so also gets left out of Andrews’ and Scidmore’s narrative.

Travel writers and tourism promoters brought the myth to a polish, none more than Barrett Willoughby in her Sitka, Portal to Romance published in 1930. “Here from his stockaded log castle on the Keekor, Alexandr Baranov, dare-devil little Iron Governor of the fur colonies, once ruled the North Pacific, and spun a web of power and commerce that reached to every corner of the world.” “Death lurked every moment outside the stockade where hordes of murderous Thlingets prowled, watching for any slackening of vigilance on the part of the Russian sentinels; but within that new world castle flowed wine of regal vintage, silks and velvets billowed in the candlelight, jeweled swords and gold-laced uniforms glittered, while the merry company, scorning danger, danced their minuets to the tinkling music of the clavichord!xv

We can’t talk about the myth of Baranov without mentioning Hector Chevigny, and his Lord of Alaska, published in 1942. It is fantasy, elaborating the myth of Baranov as a Western action hero, fighting his inferiors, bad priests, resentful officers, as well as the Natives, his faults the heroic ones of drinking hard and of having a common law wife. Chevigny freely invents incidents, dialogue and descriptions, the most outrageous of which are too offensive to repeat.

The myth of Baranov is that he was a hero, conquering and bringing “civilization” to dangerous Native people in spite of the obstacles of the many inferior people he had to deal with, from debauched promyshlenniki (the Russian equivalent of Voyageurs) to “meddling priests.” The essential elements include the savagery and hostility of the Tlingit people; Baranov’s ability to subdue them with superior courage and intelligence; and the glory and romance of the “castle” and the industry and sophistication of Russian Sitka.

How does this myth survive today? I see it continuing in two main strands: one is the notion of essential difference between European and Indigenous people. This stereotype, that Native people are mysterious and savage, not thinking or analytical, survives as the stereotype they are in harmony with nature, their culture timeless and natural, so that Native people are vulnerable to harm simply by “contact” with “modern” “Western” culture – a “clash of cultures” rather than what it was, a clash of economics and power. Also, the notion that Tlingit culture thrived because of abundant natural resources, just depending on nature to provide, rather than a recognition that Tlingit success is due to technology and organization, just like Russians or any other successful civilization.

The second strand, related to the supposed superiority of the European, is in the notion that Baranov and the Russians conquered the Tlingit against the odds, and that they held all of what is now Alaska.

Documents from before and after 1867 show that the Russian hold on southeast Alaska was weak. By contrast, the occupation of the United States in 1867 was much stronger.

Americans in 1867 believed that Native Americans were fundamentally different and weaker, “savage,” the racial bias behind Manifest Destiny, the Indian Wars and the forced removal of nearly every single Native American onto reservations. In the later 19th century they saw the condition of Native people, after they had been removed from their lands, and after suffering high mortality in relation to this, as due not to their treatment but due to something inherent to being Native. (This aspect of the myth, that the negative consequences of colonization (social disruption, stress, high death rates, lack of wealth) are due to the Natives themselves and their fragile culture, that it was inevitable they would die out from “contact” unless missionaries intervened to save them from their own culture, is the foundation of US government and missionary beliefs about Native people in the 19th and 20th centuries.)

In 1867 the Americans denied Alaska Native people citizenship, and pushed them out of the economy, and demonstrated their power by destroying the Kake̱ villages in 1869. Then when the economy picked up in the 1870s, canneries and mines seized resources with impunity. The Transfer of Alaska to the United States was a catastrophe for Alaska Native people. (That’s not to villainize or valorize anyone, but to state what happened.)

The irony is that with growing awareness of the impact of racial bias of the American era, the myth of Baranov is strengthened and even added on to: the strength of the United States government is mapped back in time onto the person of Baranov, who becomes a one-man colonialist oppressor of the Tlingit. The Russians were oppressors of Native people in western Alaska, with overwhelming force over many decades of the 1700s, but that is not as glamorous as supposedly conquering the “warlike” Tlingit, with a tiny force, in a single battle. The stereotype is that the mechanism for Baranov’s supposed victory is the inherent difference between Europeans and Indigenous people.

This narrative, or myth, is everywhere in Sitka, in signs at our parks, in our museums, on websites, and emerged, of course, in the 2020 debate over removal of the statue of Alexander Baranov in the center of town.

One sign in Sitka tells how “Local Tlingit fished, hunted, gathered food, and traded salmon, seal oil, and herring eggs with other Native Americans. But this peaceful place was once at the heart of a fierce conflict.” It goes on to say that Europeans and Russians came after sea otter and that the Russian American Company established outposts. This gives the impression that Tlingit culture was what was in conflict with the European trade in sea otter, rather than being a conflict over power and resources. It does not mention the substantial trade Tlingit leaders conducted, before Russians ever arrived, with Europeans and American traders, on Tlingit terms.

On a park website, the story of Tlingit people begins with how they relied on the ocean for their food, and ends with “In 1821, the Russians invited the Tlingit back to Sitka. They intended to profit from the Tlingits’ hunting expertise and, more importantly, to put an end to the occasional Tlingit raiding. For the duration of Russian occupation, the Kiks.ádi lived in the village, an area just outside the stockaded town. They supplied the colonists with furs and food while the Russians introduced them to their culture through education and religion. But cannons were always trained on the village, and the Russian stockade was closely guarded. The 1804 Battle of Sitka was the end of open Tlingit resistance, but the Russians were safe only so long as they were vigilant.” This could have come directly from C. L. Andrews.

This distorts the actual relationship between two groups equally engaged in trade, in an ever evolving push and pull over power and economic benefit. It reinforces the stereotype of Tlingit people as unchanging and natural, and the power and benevolence of the Russians. Again, very few Tlingit people converted to Orthodox Christianity in the Russian period, and, the only school for Tlingit people was in the very last days of the Russian outpost, and was located outside the stockade.

On another sign, at a different park, the cause of the Battle of 1802 is laid to “clashing cultures:” “the RAC and the Tlingit held contrasting beliefs about land and resource ownership. As RAC employees settled here, tensions escalated between these disparate cultures, setting the stage for conflict.”

(To be fair, the signs date from around 2013.)xvi

In 2020 Sitkans debated the removal of a statue of Baranov in front of Sitka’s Centennial Hall. The statue was a gift to the town by a local family. Just before its dedication in 1989, someone sawed the nose off (it was later repaired). The statue displaced the Tlingit canoe that was originally in front of the building in 1967. Many in Sitka saw the statue as inappropriate, in such a prominent place, because it does not reflect Sitka’s history or identity, and offensive in ignoring Sitka’s long Tlingit history. (The statue was moved into the museum, with the blessing of the family of the donor.)

The myth of Baranov came up in statements by people wanting to keep the statue, who claimed that Baranov brought civilization to the Native people. But some supporters of the removal also relied on the myth, stating that Baranof stayed through force, against the will of Tlingit leaders and oppressing local people. Baranof thus goes from being an epic hero to becoming an epic villain, when what we need is to put this fellow back into the context of history, and to bring Tlingit history to the fore.

It is hard to get away from a narrative we grew up with and accepted as fact. We need a new narrative, based on historical scholarship, that includes Tlingit history. (A part of the myth, that survives today, is that Native people have no history. Bancroft wrote, “what a land is this of which to write a history? Bleak, swampy, fog-begirt, and almost untenanted except by savages – can a country without a people furnish material for a history?”xvii) We can all question language, concepts and assumptions. We need a new, more complete narrative, that does not glorify the mythical, conquering European.


Dauenhauer, Nora Marks, Richard Dauenhauer, and Lydia T. Black, editors. Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká / Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804. (Seattle and London: University of Alaska Press and Juneau, Alaska: Sealaska Heritage Institute, 2008), 138


Kyrill Khlebnikov, ed. Richard A. Pierce, Baranov, chief manager of the Russian colonies in America (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1973), 48


Khlebnikov 34


Hubert Howe Bancroft, Alfred Bates, Ivan Petroff and William Nemos, History of Alaska 1730-1886, volume XXXIII of The Works of Hubert How Bancroft. (San Francisco: A. I. Bancroft & Company, Publishers, 1886) , 361


Bancroft 449


Bancroft 517


C. L. Andrews, Sitka, The Chief Factory of the Russian American Company (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd, 1945), 62


Andrews 43-44


Andrews 44

xKatherine L. Arndt and Richard A. Pierce, A Construction History of Sitka, Alaska, as Documented in the Records of the Russian-American Company, 2nd Edition (Sitka, Alaska: Sitka National Historical Park, National Park Service under Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2003)


Andrews 64


Andrews 67


Frederic Litke, A Voyage Around the World, 1826-1829: Volume I, To Russian America and Siberia, trans. from French edition by Renee Marshall, with a parallel account by E. H. Baron von Kittlitz, trans. from the German and with an introduction by Joan Moessner, ed. Richard Pierce, Alaska History Series no. 29 (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1987), 43-69


Andrews 74-78


Barrett Willoughby, Sitka, Portal to Romance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), 10

xviNPS interpretation being out of date: a 2011 study “Imperiled Promise” by the Organization of American Historians found that historians are mainly employed in cultural resource management, and are not included in the process of developing exhibits. Museum and Visitor Center Exhibit Planning, Design, and Fabrication Process flow chart at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/hfc/upload/EX-PD-Prod-Charts-R.pdf


Bancroft vii

In addition to translations of accounts from the time, I’m relying on Petr Aleksandrovich Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), and Andrei Val’terovich Grinëv, Russian Colonization of Alaska: Preconditions, Discovery, and Initial Development, 1741-1799 trans. Richard L. Bland (Lincoln, Nebraska and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2018) and volume two, Russian Colonization of Alaska: Baranov’s Era, 1799-1818, trans. Richard L. Bland (Lincoln, Nebraska and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2020).

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In the summer of 2022 I was Scenic Designer for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp 3-week Musical Theater Camp production of Mamma Mia. The small scale of the program meant that I was also Scenic Charge, Master Carpenter, and, along with the other six technical theater adults, an instructor for the seven Fine Arts Camp Technical Theater-track students.

Mamma Mia set designed (and built, and decorated) by Rebecca Poulson

This year that expanded staff meant I did not have to put in so many hours working alone! and, the students had the benefit of a one-to-one ratio of instructors to students. That was really fun, seeing the students just eat it up, the excitement of getting to do real things, in a beautifully-equipped theater.

For me, also, it was glorious to have a lighting designer as artistic and skilled as Terry Eikleberry. Elle Campbell, the Technical Director, is an incredible teacher, creating a space where students are valued and can grow as they get real skills. The Videographer and Audio Tech, Andrew Rutledge and Joe Burke, are also skilled and willing carpenters and a joy to work with. Sharon Morgan, our Costume Designer (and, being a tiny program, also the creator of the costumes) is absolutely phenomenal. She not only nailed each character and the era (1990s, y’all) but created beautiful compositions of color and form. The technical crew is rounded out with Lauren Petrocelli, our Sound Designer.

On stage, the incredibly talented Josh Euten, who also is a mean set dresser, was Stage Manager, Zeke Blackwell Director, Chris Coffey was Music Director, and Erin Coffey the Choreographer for a cast of 23 young performers. The technical theater students, Amelia DeSentis is a natural at carpentry and a joy to work with, Campbell Pillifant operated the light board, Hal Sufrin helped with sound, Kade Kompkoff, Lee Orozco, Téa Neilson and Aren Bucheit did it all but specialized in scenic painting, with a shout out to Téa for finishing the courtyard “rocks” and washing a lot of brushes! I really enjoyed working with these young people, seeing them grow, and enjoyed their spark and willingness to interact. For decorating the stage deck, I gave them paint and tools and techniques and had them try it out, they chose the treatment they wanted, and they did it, going up to the balcony as they worked to see what they liked. I helped with the “Beach” because it was a trickier technique, but that was it. They and a community volunteer painted the dock, beautifully, again all I did was show them some techniques and give them the paints.

More crew: Susan Reed and Misaki Saito rehearsal pianists, Shannon Haugland Audio Assistant, Haley Aronow was Props Master (and Master of Bougainvillea!), Rhiannon Guevin Vocal Coach, Jordan Phillips Acting Coach, Diane Cervelli Assistant Choreographer, and volunteers Reese Gasque, Noatak Post, Julien Riviere, Linda Mae Kristofik and Christina Van Den Hoogen helped out the scenic crew (and that was fun too, seeing these folks stretch), and Isla Morgan, Carole Knuth and Lisa Moore were Costume Assistants. In the Pit Band in addition to Susan and Mikaski, Alicia Jeffrey and a young man from Anchorage were on keyboards, Chris Coffey played drums, Abe Landa and Austin Patterson were on Guitar, Julien Riviere played Bass and Ethan Zawodny did the Percussion.

Earlier this year I volunteered to design and build sets for the Sitka Community Theater production of Clue and the Young Performers Theater (an after school theater program run by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp) production of Matilda the Musical. It is really fun to design sets and utter bliss to work with and collaborate with other people, tho tbh next year we need more volunteers in the program! In this post-pandemic year we are still figuring out how to get the word out!

Those doors got a work out! So many rooms! It was very fun, the actors really did it up. I designed and built and decorated the set (all those doors . . . ) with assistance from the students in the after-school Young Performers Theater technical theater class and community volunteers, Shannon Haugland produced, Sotera Perez directed, Elle Campbell did lights and was Technical Director, and the YPT tech students did tech! We also had a gajillion really cool props by Jack Peterson.

Matilda the Musical was the play done by the high school students in the Young Performers Theater program in April 2022, directed by Zeke Blackwell. I volunteered to design and build and decorate the set, with assistance from parents, Technical Director Elle Campbell, and the technical theater students in the after school Young Performers Theater program! Elle Campbell did the lights, we had a pit orchestra which sounded amazing, with Music Director Hannah Cummiskey conducting, and Choreography was by Melissa Hantke. Since it was such a small workforce (and cast), I combined the students’ desks with the alphabet cubes they use for one of the songs, the set consists of just three platforms and four mobile flats, three of which reverse to show a corridor of “Chokeys.” I didn’t get a picture of one of the flats, that had Matilda’s bedroom on one side and Miss Honey’s shed interior on the other.

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Available for sale, and in select stores! starting mid June 2022. $16 each, discounts start at two at: The Outer Coast.com

Produced by Rebecca Poulson in Sitka Alaska

Printed in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

Printed on heavy, vellum surface Natural color paper

Three original wood engraving prints, a scratchboard drawing, rubber cuts of ravens, and seven original watercolors by Rebecca Poulson

Poetry and Quotes by Alaskan poets John Straley, Caroline Goodwin, Robert Davis Hoffman, and Rhonda Bowen, and a quote from John Muir, on the theme of humans

Gardening Reminders for Southeastern Alaska

Calendar for all of 2024 on last page

Wilderness Anniversaries

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Now available for sale, and in select stores! $16 and discounts start at two at: The Outer Coast.com

Produced by Rebecca Poulson in Sitka Alaska

Printed in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

Printed on heavy, vellum surface Natural color paper

Four original wood engraving prints, a drawing,* a print, and six original watercolors by Rebecca Poulson

Poetry and Quotes by Alaskan poets Ishmael Angaluuk Hope, John Straley, Caroline Goodwin, and Pete Weiland, Oregon poet John Daniel, and Ed Ricketts, John Donne, Walt Whitman, Kobayashi Issa, John Muir, and John Keats, on the theme of sweet old world

Gardening Reminders for Southeastern Alaska

Calendar for all of 2023 on last page

Wilderness Anniversaries

*Scratch board drawing is from the upcoming novel for middle grades Whispering Alaska by Brendan Jones, from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) in October, 2021

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Earlier this spring I made seven section illustrations for the upcoming novel Whispering Alaska by Brendan Isaac Jones, coming out August 2021, from Penguin Random House. Brendan recently moved back to Sitka with his charming family, and he owns a house just around the corner. It’s a young adult novel, about twins who move to a town in Alaska, where the town owns a forest that they have to decide to keep, or cut down for lumber. Can’t say more, don’t want any spoilers!

It was a neat excuse to get into the old growth forest near here, to photograph, draw and then create these decorations using scratchboard, a new medium for me. By chance, when I first got the job I went camping on a lake above town, in old growth trees.

I used Essdee which was surprisingly hard to get. A lot of places only ship UPS or FedEx and they don’t offer “ground” service to SE Alaska. So you have to really hunt to find the place that can ship through the post office! But Essdee is worth it. I don’t know much about it but I found that you have to keep sharpening the edge of the cutter, I used fine grades of sandpaper, so by the time I was done it was whittled away quite a bit. Anyway!

I hope you get a sense of our forest, and this place. Go to theoutercoast.com for my wood engravings and calendar.

illlustration by Rebecca Poulson of a bear and a ferry
illustration by Rebecca Poulson of old growth forest
illustration by Rebecca Poulson of mushrooms on the forest floor
illustration by Rebecca Poulson of a sawmill
Illustration by Rebecca Poulson of a bear
illustration of a Sitka spruce seedling by Rebecca Poulson
Illustration of a guitar in a mossy place by Rebecca Poulson

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Sitka showing the Village and the stockade. This was in the first Coast Pilot, published in 1869, from a drawing made in 1867 aboard the USS Lincoln. Images courtesy of the NOAA Central Library and John Cloud.

Following are links to original materials and primary documents related to the Transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States at Sitka, Alaska, October 18, 1867.

Sitka’s Lost Decade, 1867-1877 by Rebecca Poulson, at Sitkaartblog.wordpress.com.

Sitka’s First Decade Under the American Flag, 1867-1877, by Rebecca Poulson

Photo Pairs Archival photographs by Eadweard Muybridge and Re-takes by James Poulson

Traditional Tlingit Country map by Tlingit Readers, Inc.

1867 Transfer Map of Sitka from Alaska State Archives

Official Transfer Report and Sitka Transfer Map Inventory, 1337 House Executive Documents 125 January 1868

Superimposed Transfer Map over a Google Earth photo of Sitka

1870 Report by Jeff Davis from House Executive Documents 3rd Session 41st Congress, 1870-71, Volume 2 Number 1

“Lo, The Poor Indian” by Horace Greeley, from An Overland Journey, New York to San Francisco, the Summer of 1859

The Canoe Rocks: We Do Not Know What Will Become of Us” The Complete Transcript of a Meeting Between Governor John Green Brady of Alaska and a Group of Tlingit Chiefs Juneau, December 14 1898” Article by Ted Hinckley, from the Western Historical Quarterly,  July 1970

Images of file in Alaska State Archives  “The Complete Transcript of a Meeting Between Governor John Green Brady of Alaska and a Group of Tlingit Chiefs Juneau, December 14 1898”

Full text of “The Meeting Between Governor John Green Brady of Alaska and a Group of Tlingit Chiefs Juneau, December 14 1898

The following materials are also on the Alaska Historical Society site: https://alaskahistoricalsociety.org/about-ahs/special-projects/150treaty/150th-resource-library/

Treaty of Cession

Kostrometinoff account recollection of the Transfer ceremony in a letter to Father A. P. Kashevaroff

Transcript of Kostrometinoff letter

Official Transfer Report and Sitka Transfer Map Inventory 1337 House Executive Documents 125 January 1868

Alta California newspaper story about the transfer by Del Norte, J. H. Goodale, November 19th 1867

Transcription of Alta California Nov 19 1867 article

Memoirs of a Finnish Workman by T. Ahllund, from Suomen Kuvalehti (The Finnish Pictoriall) 1873, translated by Panu Hallamaa in the Alaska Historical Society Journal, Fall 2006

Delavan Bloodgood “Eight Months at Sitka” from Overland Monthly 2 February 1869 175-186

Seward’s Speech at Sitka in 1869 August 12, 1869

Andrew Alexander Blair Account of Transfer

Transcription of Andrew Alexander Blair Account

There are also other resources on the AHS site, like articles and the podcast.


R. N. DeArmond, editor, Lady Franklin Visits Sitka, Alaska 1870, the Journal of Sophia Cracroft, Sir John Franklin’s Niece (Anchorage: Alaska Historical Society, 1981) which has a key to the Transfer map (the complete key or inventory is part of the official report, above), as well as her niece’s observations, and an 1870 census by the Army

Robert N. DeArmond and Richard A. Pierce, The USS Saginaw in Alaska Waters, 1867-68 (Kingston, Ontario and Fairbanks, Alaska: Limestone Press, 1997- especially the parts about the shelling of Kake. This book has the chilling account by a young midshipman of the destruction.

An Army Doctor’s Wife on the Frontier: The Letters of Emily McCorkle FitzGerald from Alaska and the Far West, 1874-78 (University of Nebraska Press 1986), Includes her account of the Nez Perce War, which is where many of the Army personnel went after Sitka, to Fort Lapwai.

Kahtahah, by Frances Lackey Paul (Alaska Northwest Books, 1976) which is out of print but not hard to get. It is by Frances Lackey Paul, but the book is the stories of Tillie Paul Tamaree (her mother in law). Tillie Paul was a remarkable woman with a remarkable life story, and it’s all here. Her adopted father was an important clan leader, and she grew up traditionally, but then lived with missionaries and became one herself. Her son was William Paul, a Tlingit lawyer who fought for land claims.

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The 2021 Outer Coast Calendar is now available from my website, www.theoutercoast.com, at stores in Sitka, and at bookstores in Alaska and a few select places in the North West.

The Outer Coast calendar, Sitka note cards, and original art are also great gifts, and I can mail directly, with a note, and even with gift wrap if you desire.

Here is a coupon code for 10% off your order: COAST

I am also at the Alaska Public Market On Line! This is a great way to support artisans and craftspeople in these crazy times!

I also have original wood engraving prints which I can mat and frame, a gift wrap option, and notecards, sold as singles and as sets. And, you can now also buy an 8 x 10 reproduction of any of the watercolor pictures, just contact me through the website or comment on this blog.

Calendars are printed in color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art (and this year, one by my brother James), poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2022 on the last page. The price is $15 but there are discounts starting at two.

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of falling forward into life.

Poetry includes lines from Issa, Whitman, Emerson and Shakespeare.

This calendar also features work by Alaska writer John Straley, novelist and poet, and beautiful, new work by Caroline Goodwin.

A Slide Show of Some of the Prints and Cards Available at The Outer Coast:

  • Watercolor note card Iris Meadows by Rebecca Poulson
  • framed wood engraving Wild Celery House by Rebecca Poulson
  • color wood engraving cards by Rebecca Poulson
  • notecard Woodstove by Cora Dow
  • Matted wood engraving Sunday Afternoon by Rebecca Poulson
  • Watercolor note card Lingonberry by Rebecca Poulson
  • wood engraving notecards set by Rebecca Poulson
  • Cora Dow note card Christmas Puppy
  • watercolor note card Rocks by Rebecca Poulson
  • framed wood engraving Waterfall by Rebecca Poulson
  • Note card Jam by Cora Dow
  • Matted wood engraving print First Out by Rebecca Poulson
  • note card Murre Skull by Cora Dow
  • Cora Dow note card Octopus
  • Cora Dow notecard Whale

Below are the images from the 2021 calendar:

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The 2020 Outer Coast Calendar is available from www.theoutercoast.com, or buy in stores in Sitka, or bookstores in Alaska and a few select places in the North West – including Powells Books in Portland and Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

I’ll also be at the Alaska Juneau Public Market on Thanksgiving weekend 2019 and at the Sitka Artisans Market December 6-8. I’ll also have original wood engraving prints and notecards, which are also available on the website.

Calendars are printed in color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2021 on the last page. The price is $15 but there are discounts starting at two.

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of Friends.

Poetry includes lines from Walt Whitman and William Shakespeare.

This calendar also features work by Alaska writer John Straley, novelist and poet, and some beautiful, inspiring work by Caroline Goodwin.

Below are the images from the 2020 calendar:

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Cover 2019

The 2019 Outer Coast calendar is available from www.theoutercoast.com, or buy in stores in Sitka, or bookstores in Alaska and a few select places in the North West – including Powells Books in Portland and Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

I’ll also be at WhaleFest in Sitka November 2-4, at the Alaska Juneau Public Market on Thanksgiving weekend, and at the Sitka Artisans Market December 7-9. I’ll also have original wood engraving prints and notecards, which are also available on the website.

Calendars are printed in color on heavy, vellum-surface Natural colored paper by Alaska Litho in Juneau, Alaska U.S.A.

This calendar features my original art, poetry by Alaskans and other greats, gardening reminders for southeastern Alaska, and wilderness anniversaries. It opens out to 11 x 17 inches (8 1/2 by 11 closed), has a handy hole for hanging, and, has complete year of 2019 on the last page. The price is $15 but there are discounts starting at two.

This year’s calendar is built around the theme of imperfection – nobody’s perfect, and that’s ok.

Poetry includes lines from William Wordsworth, Shakespeare, and Beat poet Lew Welch (1926-1971).

This calendar also features work by John Straley, novelist and poet, and some beautiful, inspiring work by Caroline Goodwin.

Below are the images from the 2019 calendar:December2019February2019January2020July2019 (2)June2019March2019May2019November2019October2019September2019image only


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by Rebecca Poulson

9 brighter

Lincoln Street in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Some primary documents on this era can be found Here

I wish to acknowledge the Tlingit people as the original owners of this land and whose history must be foregrounded. I take all responsibility for any errors, and will be grateful for any corrections or comments.

I’m an artist, here in Sitka, and as I talked to people, and read about history, I had questions about the decade following the transfer of Russia’s claims in North America to the United States, which took place in Sitka, on October 18th, 1867. Sitka was the primary settlement in Alaska. How was it that in Russian days, prior to the transfer, the Indigenous Tlingit people controlled southeastern Alaska, but by the end of the 1870s, just a decade into American rule, they were pushed out of the economy and had largely lost their political power. What happened? This post is based on research in 2017 – there is a list of sources at the end, and I plan to add citations to the text later this year. Research, primarily a trip to the National Archives in Washington D.C. and to the Alaska State Library and Archives in Juneau, was supported by a grant from the Treaty of Cession Sesquicentennial grants by the Alaska Historical Commission. All errors and omissions are mine. Please share any comments, corrections and other issues; this is a work in progress.

(This piece will I hope also address some myths we all grew up with, especially about the Treaty of Cession and the transfer of Russian claims to the United States, that persist today. The myth is that the United States “purchased” Alaska, and goes on to say that the Tlingit could not adapt to the more modern culture and so needed help from missionaries. The Russians did not own Alaska, because they had not paid for it, or conquered or made treaties with the original owners, the Indigenous Peoples.

Russia transferred “all the territory and dominion now possessed by his said Majesty on the continent of America and in adjacent islands” to the U.S., but what exactly was possessed was not specified in the Treaty of Cession, so what the United States had title to was left undefined. Native ownership of Alaska was finally settled in 1971 with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The more pernicious part of the myth, that Native people were somehow unable to compete, is just as false: systematic and vicious racial bias, based on a stereotype of Native weakness, kept Alaska Native people from being able to compete by not granting them citizenship, denying civil rights, and refusing to recognize ownership of Alaska and right to compensation.)

I thought it would be a straightforward project to compile the many documents available from the time, and to simply bring all these resources into one narrative.

It turned out to be far from simple. The first problem was that the regional context of the time – what was happening in the region, in Washington and Oregon and British Columbia, is itself a vast topic, that had not been included in other narratives of Alaska’s history. This had to be researched, understood, and integrated.

The other vast topic was what was happening with Northwest coast Indigenous Peoples in the period around 1867. This is nearly overwhelming for a few reasons: first, is that things were changing so rapidly, in fundamental ways, to Indigenous groups, from things like epidemics, changing markets, and the flood of American and British immigrants, accompanied by the military, forcing Indigenous people from their land.

The biggest factor though is the Euro-centric bias, that is glaringly obvious in documents from the time, but persists into the present. The problem is that it is so pervasive and common, it is hard to see. Even as I’ve learned about Indigenous Peoples history over the past few years, I have a long way to go, we all do, before we can appreciate Indigenous history as primary, with the influx of Europeans simply one chapter – and not the starting point or central focus. It is very difficult to completely get out of the Euro-centric viewpoint (with falsehoods including that history started with the arrival of Europeans, that Indigenous Peoples were passive, timeless and marginal participants in history, whose societies were simple and static, who were reacting to and not initiating change, and who needed help to adapt to modernity because of their inherent weakness). The other aspect of this is that the Native history is ignored, because of the stereotype that there is none.

Here is a link to a video of an earlier version of this presentation given at the Sharing Our Knowledge: A Conference of Tlingit Clans and Elders conference in Sitka in October 2017.


Sitka in 1793, with Noow Tlein, now also called Castle Hill, at center, by Sigismund Bacstrom. Original at the Beineke Library, Yale University.

Background: The Maritime Fur Trade (1780s – 1810s)

The entire region that is now southeastern Alaska and parts of Yukon Territory in Canada is Tlingit Aani, or Tlingit country, or Tlingit America. Tlingit clans were here even before the ice age and migrated back when the ice receded, about 10,000 years ago. Learn more about Tlingit history, culture and language here. Tlingit technology includes elegant systems of cultivating resources, and Tlingit art and literature are a world treasure.

Trade had been the economic engine of the Northwest since time immemorial. This trade became international in scope, and focused on furs, in the mid-1780s. The international trade socketed into existing practice and followed Indigenous trade protocol. The trade was highly profitable for both Indigenous and foreign traders. The trade stretched far into the interior, so benefited the entire region. The clans who owned rights to trade at the major routes – the Stikine River and at Chilkat – became even more powerful with the expansion into the global market. The incredibly lucrative sea otter fur trade era only lasted a few decades, however, so by the 1810s was shifting to other, less profitable goods.

Background: Epidemics

A major impact of internationalization was epidemics. Smallpox swept the coast (and all of North America) around 1775, again in 1802, again in 1836-37, and again in 1862, each time killing a large proportion of the population affected, even entire villages. While Indigenous people by this time were no more naturally susceptible to smallpox than Europeans, Europeans often had access to inoculation. (Although, over the course of North American colonization by Europeans and Euro-Americans, Native people did become more susceptible to disease because of stress and starvation from disruption of food supplies and society by colonists. Also, after Europeans began colonizing North America around 500 years ago, various diseases killed up to 90% of the Indigenous population in episodes in different places. This initial depopulation, and the disruption it led to, was probably the major factor in the defeat of Indigenous Peoples across the Americas. In turn, mass death causes trauma and social disruption, which also makes people more vulnerable to illness. In turn, illness feeds racist stereotypes by those in power, in a cycle of stress that extends to the present day.) 

Background: Russians

The lucrative sea otter trade, which brought maritime traders to southeastern Alaska, also brought Russians, with hundreds of forced-labor Indigenous hunters from western Alaska. The fur trade brought great wealth to the region, reached its zenith on this coast in the 1790s, and was pretty much over by 1820. 

Independent Russian fur companies had first invaded the Aleutian Islands in the 1740s in an extremely violent pursuit of sea otter and other furs, by hunting but also by taking hostages and compelling local people to give them furs as tribute and then, by the 1780s, by forcing Native people to hunt for the Russian benefit. Indigenous resistance met brutal retaliation.Russian companies worked their way into Cook Inlet, Kodiak Island and Prince William Sound. The Russian fur trade participants, by then down to mainly one large company, organized in 1799 as the Russian American Company, a private fur trading monopoly, chartered by the Russian government to colonize North America.

By the 1780s the Russian company had a system of forced labor by Native hunters in fleets of kayaks, and also compelled people to sew and supply food for the company. This all took a horrific toll on the Native people of these places, with overwork and starvation. By the 1790s Russians were running out of sea otter in western Alaska, so started sending fleets of hunters all the way into southeastern Alaska. They negotiated with the clan leader at Yakutat for a sea otter hunting base and colony in 1796, which was destroyed in 1806. They negotiated with Kiks.ádi clan leader Shk’awulyeil in 1799 for a sea otter hunting base and fort at Gajaa Heen, north of Sitka, but this was destroyed in 1802 by a multi-clan alliance, after an accumulation of insults and offenses. In 1804 Russians, with some small ships, hundreds of Unanganax and Sugpiak hunters in kayaks, and a frigate, the Neva, came to Sitka and attacked the Kiks.ádi at the fort Shís’gi Noow at Kaasdaa Héen (now also called Indian River). Kiks.ádi defenders lost a canoe of gunpowder and the young leaders bringing it, in a firefight with a Russian boat in front of Sitka, which was probably the turning point of the battle. The Kiks.ádi evacuated the fort, going overland then across Peril Strait to Chaatlk’aanoow, in what is called the Kiks.ádi Survival March.

Russians then built their fort on the site of Noow Tlein, which they called New Archangel, in 1804. They made peace with the governing Kiks.ádi clan leaders of Sitka in 1805, in which they were granted permission to stay at Noow Tlein (the hilltop is now also called Castle Hill), but no more than that. Russians were also allowed to operate a small outpost at Redoubt, and decades later a trading post at what is now Wrangell. This was probably mutually beneficial. For the Russians, even though the Tlingit were still the ones actually controlling the region, the Russians could claim possession vis a vis other European nations and the United States, which was probably the main reason they held on to Sitka, in spite of their profits coming from furs from Western Alaska.

Both the Russian and Tlingit people participated in the international fur trade; for Tlingit traders, the Russian outpost at Sitka was one more potential market in addition to the American ships who continued to trade in the area.The Russians had competition for buying furs so had to offer better prices to attract sellers. In addition, Tlingit leaders profited from supplying the Russians, providing tons of food like halibut and venison, artwork, and other products, as well as labor, to the Russian settlement. Tlingit men worked for the Russians in various capacities, and many Russians had relationship with or married Tlingit women, so there were many people with heritage or relatives in both communities. While never comfortable or easy, Russians and Tlingit people had complex and interdependent relationships, social, political, and economic.

An illustration of the complex relationship and inter-dependency, that goes against the assumptions most of us have, was when in 1831 the Company extended the fence around New Archangel. One reason, according to the governor at the time, was that Tlingit individuals were selling rum to Russian workers, who would trade the shirts off their backs to get it.

In this complex relationship, the Russians did not have the upper hand, as is often assumed, and had to carefully negotiate and pay attention to diplomatic relations. When a Russian governor allowed relations to deteriorate, in the early 1850s, he was censured and removed. But his neglect of diplomacy led to an attack on the fort in 1855, in which five or six Russians were killed and dozens wounded. Russians could not enact retribution, as British or American authorities did without fail, when such attacks were made on their facilities. The Russian authorities respected the Indigenous justice system – which is based on reciprocity and compensation, rather than punishment – and regularly paid Native clans for injury done by Russians, even when accidental.

The Hudson’s Bay Company began aggressively expanding into the coastal region from the 1830s, and leased trading rights and for a time, a fort from the Russians at Wrangell. At Wrangell, Tlingit traders objected to the Hudson’s Bay Company practices, in trying to control trade and drive down prices, and in neglecting trading protocol; the Russians had to intervene diplomatically between the HBC and the Tlingit, but even then, the trading post was short-lived.

The Tlingit clans who controlled trade routes to the interior, at the Stikine River (Wrangell) and the Chilkat (Haines area), were wealthy and powerful players in the regional fur economy. Clans defended their trading prerogatives by forcing the Hudson’s Bay Company to abandon trading posts up the Stikine River in 1838, at Taku in 1842, and above Chilkat on the Yukon in 1852, halting the HBC’s attempted expansion into their lands, just as they had conscribed the Russians’.

Sitka from Coast PilotSitka showing the Village and the stockade. This was in the first Coast Pilot, published in 1869, from a drawing made in 1867 aboard the USS Lincoln. Images courtesy of the NOAA Central Library and John Cloud.

Regional context

In the 1850s and 60s, the population, society and economy of the Northwest Coast was changing rapidly. More and more British and American colonists, miners and speculators came into the Northwest, seeking gold and other economic opportunities. Tlingit people traveled to Puget Sound, which had become the economic center of the region, to trade, and to work for, and interact in every way with the new settlers, as well as with other Indigenous people from other tribes. In the mid-1850s, thousands of “Northern Indians” – Heiltsuk, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit people – gathered each year at Fort Victoria. While in the 1840s Tlingit traders sold sea otter pelts to the Russians, after 1851, they took furs and other goods the thousand miles or so to Victoria to trade.

In British America the British Navy enforced “gunboat diplomacy” on coastal tribes, and in the United States, it was equally violent, as the military and settlers forced Native people onto reservations, and worse, including bounties and massacres. With the relatively weak Russian claims, Alaska was a haven of Native control.

In 1856, Tlingit people from Kake on the beach at Port Gamble, in Washington, were ordered to leave, did not, and the USS Mississippi fired on them, killing 27, including an important clan leader. The survivors asked for compensation from authorities but did not get any. The following year, relatives made the voyage back to Puget Sound, and killed the Collector of Customs at Whidbey Island, as someone with comparable status to the clan leader, and returned to southeastern Alaska.

By the 1860s the Russian American Company, which in spite of their efforts was still dependent on the fur trade, was not making money. Some shareholders were concerned that American gold-seekers would swarm into Alaska as they had into the American West. The Russians would not have been able to defend against such an influx, nor could they defend their claims in case of military attack by the British. These were both factors in their decision to cede their claims in 1867.

The Treaty of Cession

The Russians actually held very little of what is now Alaska. There were no more than around 900 Russians, total, in Alaska over the entire period of colonization. While they did control parts of Western Alaska, they did not control most of the interior and definitely did not control what is now southeastern Alaska. The Treaty of Cession transferred what Russia “possessed” in North America to the United States, but what that was was not defined. Because the Russians had not made treaties or purchased or conquered Alaska, their claims were fuzzy. Tlingit people consistently protested and asked for payment for the taking of fish streams and other areas. After the federal government created the Tongass National Forest, in 1902 and 1907, comprising nearly all of southeastern Alaska, Tlingit and Haida leaders worked tirelessly to get recognition of their preexisting ownership rights to this region and to get compensation. In the 1960s, after Alaska became a state, the new state started making its land selections, and Native leaders appealed to national leaders and groups, and  managed to halt the process until Indigenous ownership and compensation for Alaska could be settled. The Treaty of Cession of 100 years earlier was a live issue because it had not dealt with the ownership by Native people. Claims were finally settled in the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

So when the United States raised the American flag at Sitka, on October 18, all they could technically claim ownership of was that hill, which had been granted to the Russians in 1805; everything else, virtually all of Alaska, was held only by the Doctrine of Discovery, the policy, originating in Europe in the 1400s, that says lands can be claimed for whatever Christian sovereign nation claimed it first, that assumes that Indigenous Peoples had no rights to their lands.

Tlingit response to American occupation

Right after the transfer, Kiks.ádi Clan leader Mikael Kooxx’aan refused to take down a Russian flag in front of his house. American accounts tell how Tlingit leaders, probably including Kooxx’aan, told them that even though they had allowed the Russians to stay in their territory, they absolutely did not have the right to then give it to anyone who came along. Tlingit leaders from other kwaans, when they met with General Davis to invite trade, told General Jeff Davis the same thing, that they did not recognize American claims. In turn, General Davis told them they had no choice. In a report for Congress, he wrote that they were unaware of the Doctrine of Discovery.

7 brighterView of part of Sitka’s Village, from Japonski Island in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

One economy

The first surprise to me when I started reading first-hand accounts of the era was that there was no separation between the Tlingit and the American communities or economies. I was expecting a separation, with an Indigenous economy, based on what we now call subsistence, consisting of harvesting foods and making traditional crafts, and a separate, American economy, based on products brought in from outside, especially alcohol. This is the prevalent narrative we grew up with, and is still the dominant narrative today. It is a myth, based on stereotypes, with no basis in fact. The myth is that the Indigenous economies were somehow different, simpler, and so they were damaged by the American economic system.

In fact, Native economies, culture, society, arts, literature, resource management and technology are as sophisticated as those Euro-Americans had. The underlying stereotype, that persists today, is that Native people and cultures are simple and naive and unable to change, and so they suffered from “contact” with the supposedly more modern or sophisticated European culture. This is false. Tlingit people have thrived in southeastern Alaska for thousands of years, and have have never had any problem with changing with the times. Obstacles to economic integration with the newcomers were artificial, instigated by US officials, such as the denial of citizenship, and not inherent to Native culture. There was only one economy, with Tlingit people and Europeans and Americans all active participants.

For example, when the steamer John L. Stephens came in to port for the Transfer, Tlingit people came out to sell them fresh food. Everyone participated in the trade for furs, alcohol, and other items. The Americans, like the Russians, guarded the stockade separating the two communities, and enforced a curfew but during the day Native people and non-Native people went freely back and forth, and Native people worked and traded and sat and observed. Socially as well, people on both sides of the barrier were related to and shared European and Indigenous heritage.

Some economic activity, then a depression

Right after the Transfer, in October, 1867, there was a flurry of economic activity as the Russian American Company assets were sold off and had to be loaded onto ships, and there was work available, as well as a market in furs, artwork, handicraft, and food for the Army and others who had just come to Sitka. One sign of the optimism was a city government, formed by some of the newcomers from the United States, in December 1867.

The Army troops brought drunken crime and mayhem to Sitka, by officers and enlisted men alike. (The Russian American Company had strictly controlled alcohol available to their employees and in trade.) In May 1869, enlisted men even robbed the cathedral. Crime ebbed and flowed through the decade, but in the six months between October 1868 to March 1869, a year after the transfer, there was an average of 26 military offenders a day in the guard house.

The Russian America Company paid the fare for anyone who wanted to leave, and more than 500 Russians did.

8 brighterThis is approximately where the Pioneer Home is, now. The blockhouse on the left edge is in about the same location as the replica today. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

In 1868 the Army had established a total of five posts in Alaska. They assumed that they would be needed to control the influx of United States citizens into the new possession. So few Euro-Americans came, however, that the Army closed all but Sitka in 1870. Sitka’s city government faltered and finally failed due to lack of funds. Sitka’s non-Native population fell.

The Army was supposed to be temporary, as it had been elsewhere in the west. California, Oregon, Nevada and Nebraska were already states in 1867. But in Alaska, the immigration didn’t come in the way it had elsewhere in the American West. By early 1869, the US government was virtually the only economic activity in Sitka. The once-a-month steamer was subsidized by a Post Office contract.

In the 1870 census, three years after the Transfer, the population still included about 1200 Tlingit people, but on the other side of the stockade, other than the Army, there were only 390 persons, down from the 900 or so at the time of the Transfer. About 250 of these people had been born in Alaska, 21 of them in Russia. Most of these people were Alaska Native people the Russian authorities called “creole,” people of mixed Russian and Native, mostly Alutiiq (Sugpiak) and Unangan heritage (the Indigenous people of Kodiak Island and the Aleutians, respectively). After the Transfer they were usually called, and called themselves, Russians.

14 brighterThe Double Decker, held in trust by Sitka’s Collector of Customs for the destitute Russians who lived there. It was between Lincoln Street and what is now Seward Street, about where Service Transfer building is (across from the White Elephant shop). View is looking south, toward the church. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Poverty in Sitka was worst for the Russians, who before the transfer had depended on the Russian American Company for employment and for support when they retired. For a time, the Army gave rations to nearly half of the Russians in Sitka, to prevent starvation. A sign of the desperation is the shocking total of 37 of the Russian women listed as prostitutes in the 1870 census. (This may not have been unusual on the American frontier at the time, when unmarried women had few choices to sustain themselves and their children.)

Why did Alaska not get the rush of Euro-American immigration and investment like in other parts of the West? One reason was that so much land was already available to Euro-Americans, due to the ongoing large-scale, often genocidal, ethnic cleansing in the contiguous United States, as the military and settlers killed and forced Indigenous people off their land and onto reservations. The other reason was the economy: a national recession. The main industry of the region, for Native and non-Native people, was the fur trade, which was not doing well, in part due to over hunting, but also due to the post-Civil War Long Depression of the 1870s, which extended to Europe as well.

What changed, for Tlingit people with the Transfer?

On one side of the stockade, a few years after the transfer, the remaining Russians, formerly dependent on the Russian American Company, were starving. On the other side, Tlingit people weren’t starving, but were losing ground economically. This refutes the myth that subsistence, living off the land, is enough. In this period there was nothing keeping people from fishing and hunting as they wished, and yet, they were reported and described themselves as poor by the end of the decade.

One reason they lost ground was that American traders aggressively displaced Tlingit from what trade there was. In an 1870 report to Congress, Frank Mahoney, a Sitka businessman, wrote that on Kuiu and Kupreanof, the Natives “catch some furs, . . . , besides trading with some of their neighbors. Their trade has fallen off considerably since the occupation of the Territory by the Americans. They formerly were in the habit of getting their trading goods from small crafts from Victoria, but at present the Indians north, south, east, for two hundred miles, either come to Sitka or get their wants supplied by the small crafts that load or are owned by Sitka merchants.”

Indigenous trade of Southeast Alaska in the 1870s centered on Port Simpson, in Canada, and at various times Customs Collectors considered imposing duties on goods coming in to Alaska by canoe, but they did not enforce it, maybe because of the relatively small quantity and the hassle.

Gold prospectors, backed by the military, broke the Tlingit clans’ control of trade routes, first on the Stikine, then on the Chilkat routes.

12 brighterThe Customs House and Barracks. The Barracks are about where the current City offices (old Post Office) is now. This is looking toward the wharf, the current Petro Marine fuel dock. Taken in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

What changed, politically, for Tlingit people after 1867?

The only U.S. law in the Army period was the 1868 Treasury Act, which established the Customs Service in Alaska. The Army had the responsibility of government, but no legal authority. There were so few Euro-American immigrants, that Congress ignored Alaska. Civil government would have been expensive; as it was, the costs of supporting the Army and the Customs Service, and the monthly steamer, cost more the government got back from customs. And, America was in a depression.

Of course, Indigenous law was always in effect, and was even recognized to some extent by American authorities.

The Army’s obsession was in keeping alcohol from Native people. This was related to the racist belief that Native people were more susceptible than non-Natives to alcohol, and that drunkenness brought out their inherent savagery. This is based on the myth that Native people are somehow weaker than non-Natives. Demand for alcohol, and drunkenness, seems to have occurred in every group, although it seems to have been proportionately much worse among the non-Native soldiers and prospectors, most of whom were men without families. In the recession economy, alcohol was the main item of trade.

When there was a ban on alcohol importation, there was a rise in distilling, by Natives and non-Natives, with molasses imported by the barrel. (You might know that the word “hootch” comes from the product made in Xootsnoow, or Angoon.)

Again and again, Army commanders asked their superiors for some definition of their role. When the Army commander in 1874 sent alcohol sellers to Portland for trial, the judge decided he did not have authority to jail civilians, and threw out the case, which led to one of the traders suing the Army commander for unlawful arrest. (The legal history is outside of my scope here, but the Portland judge also took every opportunity to deprive Native people of their rights, even when they were set out in American law.)

FID6 brighterSitka from Aleutski Island in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Kake War

Tlingit law requires compensation for an injury or death, even if it is accidental. This can ultimately be a life for a life, for serious incidents; a member of the offending clan sacrifices himself. As in any other type of law, it is not always followed, but throughout the Northwest Coast this was the custom, for Native and non-Native parties alike: payment for injury or death was negotiated in material compensation.

In early 1869, an Army sentry killed men leaving Sitka by canoe. This was following an incident when General Davis entertained clan leaders at New Year’s 1869. A Chilkat clan leader called Colcheka in Jeff Davis’s rendering, perhaps Shkeedlikháa[i], was insulted by a guard when he went through the stockade gate. He grabbed the soldier’s rifle and walked off with it. There was a violent confrontation when soldiers were sent in to apprehend him, and two Tlingit men were killed and a soldier badly wounded. He gave himself up, and General Davis had him put in jail. There was an order following this incident that people couldn’t leave Sitka, but this apparently was not in effect when a sentry killed some men who were leaving.

Relatives of some of the men, from Kake, went to General Davis about compensation, but he repeatedly refused to work with them. These relatives then killed two Euro-Americans, who were camping at what is now called Murder Cove on Admiralty Island.

This led to the so-called “Kake War” in 1869, the first of three incidents in which the U.S. military attacked Alaska Native villages, when the USS Saginaw shelled three villages and burned all the houses but one to the ground, a total of 28 clan houses, many of them 30 or 40 feet square. They also destroyed canoes.

The Kake incident was repeated at Wrangell, later in 1869, after soldiers killed two Tlingit men, after one of them assaulted a woman at the fort. When the victims’ father retaliated by killing a white merchant, the Army shelled the village of Kaachx an.áak’w, then when he gave himself up, summarily “tried” and hanged him.

Americans did not always treat Native people unfairly. One of the deaths at Sitka in 1869, of a Chilkat man, was compensated by a merchant, Frank Louthan, who paid in blankets. He not only wanted to prevent violence, but the Chilkat leaders refused to come to Sitka and trade until it was resolved. General Davis himself, later in 1869, when an Army policeman shot and killed a Tlingit youth, paid the family, writing that it was to prevent a white person being killed. The Army punished petty criminals regardless of race, putting them in jail.

There was never any formal resistance by the Tlingit clans, and the Army was never afraid of the Tlingit. The brutal retaliation by the Army was to put down “insolence,” – again and again in the Army documents you see references to a “saucy” or “insolent” Tlingit leader – to demonstrate the overwhelming dominance of the United States. The Army knew about Tlingit law, and probably, like the merchant Frank Loutham, recognized that it was a valid system of justice. The Army’s refusal to utilize it, and to instead insist on American style justice – the punishment of individuals – might have been driven by a power struggle, the desire of the military to subjugate Native people.

6 brighterSitka from Noow Tlein/Castle Hill in 1868 by Eadweard Muybridge, from the Online Archives of California from the Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Indian Wars and Racial Stereotype

The most striking, and disturbing, thing in reading documents from this period is the virulent stereotype of Natives, as “savages.” This was the era of Manifest Destiny, the height of the Indian Wars, which were the often genocidal process of ethnic cleansing, forcing Indigenous Americans off their lands and onto reservations to make way for Euro-Americans. This period saw the height of racist justification for taking Native lands.

Euro-Americans at the time wrote that Natives are passive and lazy. They are shrewd, greedy, treacherous, brutal, and untrustworthy. And yet every American observer recorded experiences and interactions that contradict every aspect of this stereotype. The heart of the stereotype is that Native culture is so “primitive” that mere “contact” with the “civilized” culture, especially alcohol, is enough to break it and send the “poor Indian” into confusion and anomie. This stereotype lays the blame for Native disadvantage on Native people themselves, and a culture that is supposedly so delicate that it is broken by “contact”. Unfortunately, this stereotype continues today.

I believe there were three main factors, in the erosion of Tlingit power over this decade: the declining fur trade, and being pushed from their central role in it. The second factor is deliberate subjugation by the US military and officials, driven by racial stereotype. The third was the high mortality from diseases, probably exacerbated, if not caused, by the economic situation and stress that resulted from being pushed to the margins of the economy.

I believe that the Transfer brought an acceleration of what was already under way in the Pacific Northwest before 1867: the inexorable and violent dispossession by American and British civil and military authorities of Native people of their lands. This was often genocidal in effect, sometimes explicitly genocidal in intention. Massive Euro-American and British immigration in many places also led to decimation of food resources, sometimes unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally, and everywhere included refusal to recognize Indigenous law, property rights, or status as citizens.

After 1877: Army pulls out, Navy comes in

The Army pulled out of Alaska in June 1877. The US government was cutting back on the size of the military, and they wanted all available men for the Nez Perce War. Sitka Tlingit people immediately began to take apart the stockade, to salvage the contents and occupy government buildings, to assert their right to go where they wanted, and even demanded and received compensation from a merchant for a death.

Alaska was left to the Treasury Department, which in Sitka consisted of a Collector of Customs. There were only three Revenue Cutters on the entire West Coast, and one of those had to patrol the fur seal grounds. Alcohol imports were banned, but there was no law to control molasses or to allow destruction of stills, even if there had been a police force to do it. From August to November 1878, Portland merchants shipped 4,889 gallons of molasses to Sitka.

In 1879, the non-Native Sitkans, claiming they were afraid of a Tlingit attack, sent to Victoria for a British warship for protection. The alleged threats were by Kiks.ádi leader Kh’alyáan, demanding compensation (and wages owed) for the deaths of five Kiks.ádi men working on a whaler. The HMS Osprey responded, but an American ship was close behind. The government stationed a U.S. Navy ship at Sitka.

In 1879, the commander of the USS Jamestown found 360 U.S. citizens living at Sitka, of whom 34 had been born in the United States. More than a thousand Tlingit people resided at Sitka, but Alaska Native people were not citizens.

Sitka by DeGroffSitka by Edward DeGroff, looking toward the wharf. “Baranof’s Castle” is on the left.

Increasing Economic Activity

But by the end of the 1870s, the national economic depression was over. The first canneries were built at Old Sitka and at Klawock, in 1878. More visitors started to come in the late 1870s, and the Pacific Steamship Line had the first tourist cruise to Glacier Bay in 1882. A large gold strike in 1880 at what is now Juneau put Alaska on the map.

These new industries, however, had limited opportunities for Tlingit people to participate, and, backed by the government, they took Native land and resources.

Tlingit people in this period suffered devastating losses to disease, especially tuberculosis, in common with other marginalized groups in America (such as immigrants crowded in tenements in New York City), even as most Americans were seeing dramatically increased lifespans.


The first Protestant missionaries in southeast Alaska were Indigenous Tsimshian people, who were at Wrangell to work during the Cassiar gold rush in 1873. Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson seized this opportunity to send his own missionaries and teachers to Wrangell, then to Sitka in 1878.

From the earliest days of American occupation, Tlingit leaders consistently protested injustices, and consistently asked for compensation for lands and resources. From the mid-1870s, they were also asking authorities for schools. In 1879 naturalist John Muir and Presbyterian missionary S. Hall Young reported that every village they visited, with “but one or two exceptions” was interested in missions and schools, having heard of the work of William Duncan, at Metlakatla, in Canada.

The Tsimshian Christian community of Metlakatla, founded in 1861, was the most famous, and there were also other Anglican and Methodist missions on Tsimshian lands. The major mission sites had sawmills, and there was even a cannery at the Christian village of Metlakatla, and an enormous church and new frame-style houses.

The invitation to missionaries by Tlingit leaders could have been based on the project to get back rights and to get compensation for their lands, which was related to working to regain economic ground, by controlling their own sawmills to build new, popular, frame-style houses. Anthropologist Aurel Krause visited Tlingit settlements at Chilkat in 1882, and reported that “after they had gone to church for half a year and sent their children to school, went to the missionary and complained that they had not been rewarded for their virtue and had not received boards to build their houses as the Tsimshian had.” This is not to say that the Tsimshian or Tlingit were not sincere Christians, but political rights and economic opportunity, especially for their children, was probably part of the promise of Protestant Christianity. Reading and writing in English was an economic asset at the time, and essential for working within the American legal and political systems to fight to regain rights.

Some of the earliest students at Sitka included young men of standing in Tlingit society. The Sitka mission saw rapid success because of the early support of certain Tlingit leaders, and the dedication and drive of the first students.

Boys 1883 Sitka SchoolStudents in the Presbyterian school at Sitka. Rudolph Walton, Kawootk’, may be the young man in the front, second from left. Photo from the Presbyterian Historical Society, Sheldon Jackson Collection, on the Internet Archives (www.archive.org).

The Choice

The missions seemed to promise empowerment, but operated on the same racist stereotype the military had, that Tlingit people were weak, and that in particular their inadequate culture was an obstacle to progress. Missionaries believed Native people needed their help, that their problems were due to their culture, and so if they got rid of their culture they would be successful. While promoting the notion that Tlingit people were intelligent and able to become good citizens, the missionaries raised money with a distorted and negative picture of Native life and culture of those who did not become Christian and emulate the lifestyle of Euro-American middle class Protestants. They believed they were helping Native people by getting rid of Native culture and language. Native people who joined the Presbyterians made a deliberate choice, when there were no great options. Also, in spite of the impression given by missionary photographs, Native Christians continued to rely on their culture and society, social and clan ties. Native Presbyterians were still subject to racial bias, which made it very hard to make money and to build assets, and contributed to high rates of early death.

The Shelling of Angoon

In 1882, the Revenue Cutter Corwin destroyed most of the village of Angoon, over a protest by Angoon Tlingit leaders demanding compensation from a whaling company for an accidental death. In contrast to the shelling of Kake in 1869, which received little attention, the destruction of Angoon was condemned in Congress and in American newspapers (although Angoon residents did not receive an apology until a century later).

This incident, and growing Euro-American population, led to the 1884 Organic Act, Alaska’s first government, 17 years after Alaska became part of the United States. Because of Sheldon Jackson’s influence, Christian mission schools were privileged, and the U.S. government even provided monetary support for mission schools until 1894. They excluded the Russian Orthodox Church, which Protestants considered decadent and superstitious.

Nevertheless, by the late 1880s, the Russian Orthodox church at Sitka grew rapidly with Native converts. This was due to many factors, but possibly one was that this church allowed, possibly unintentionally, more Native control than the Presbyterians did. The two churches competed for Tlingit members into the 20th century.

Sitka by MerrillE. W. Merrill photograph of Sitka Channel and the Village in the 1900s. The boat at center, the William, may be the boat of that name built at the Cottages by Peter Simpson for Tlingit artist and merchant Rudolph Walton. E. W. Merrill collection, Sitka National Historical Park.

The dynamics of the decade of 1867-1877 led to the Alaska we know today. High rates of death, subjugation by the government, and economic marginalization – all driven by the stereotype of the weakness of Native culture – put enormous, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles in the path of people identified as Native. The impact of racial bias, keeping people out of the mainstream economy, only strengthens the stereotype.

Alaska Natives were not citizens until 1924. Sitka’s elementary school was not integrated until 1942, the high school was not integrated until 1949, and aboriginal rights to land and resources was not addressed until 1971. Native languages, technology, literature and history are still not seen as being as valuable as that of Europe in most public schools. In spite of these tremendous obstacles, Tlingit culture and society is so strong that the culture and identity thrives today. The efforts by Native leaders over a century for recognition of ownership of Alaska culminated in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

It’s clear, however, looking at the history, that we still see the impact of that stereotype of 150 years ago, of Native people being primitive and uncivilized, weaker and different from non-Natives, and how even that stereotype itself has persisted into our own times.


Transfer accounts:

House of Representatives, Executive Document, Number 125, Fortieth Congress, second session, 1-8 (General Rousseau’s Report);

Acquisition of Alaska” Daily Alta California Vol XIX Number 6457, November 19 1867 accessed at the California Digital Newspaper Collection, https://cdnc.ucr.edu;

Delavan Bloodgood, “Eight Months at Sitka,” The Overland Monthly February 1869, 175-186;

Captain George F. Emmons, The Journal of the USS Ossipee, Transcription by John M. Baldry, Elizabeth Richardson and Damon Stuebner, accessed at http://alaskahistoricalsociety.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/12/Ossipee-Journal-Transfer.pdf

Before 1867 and regional context:

Petr Aleksandrovich Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978)

Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer, and Lydia T. Black, editors. Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká / Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804 (Seattle and London: University of Alaska Press and Juneau, Alaska: Sealaska Heritage Institute, 2008)

Kenneth N. Owens with Alexander Yu. Petrich, Empire Maker: Aleksandr Baranov and Russian Colonial Expansion into Alaska and Northern California (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2015)

Andrei Val’terovich Grinev, The Tlingit Indians in Russian America, 1741-1867 trans. Richard L.Bland and Keterina G. Solovjova (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

Katherine L. Arndt and Richard A. Pierce, A Construction History of Sitka, Alaska, as Documented in the Records of the Russian-American Company, 2nd Edition (Sitka, Alaska: Sitka National Historical Park, National Park Service under Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2003)

Ilya Vinkovestsky, Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Contintental Empire, 1801-1867 (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Golovin, Captain-Lieutenant Pavel Nikolaevich, The End of Russian America: Captain P. N. Golovin’s Last Report, 1862. Basil Dmytrishyn and E. A. P. Crownhart-Vaughan, translators and introduction (Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society, 1979)

Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, Indian Wars (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977)

Barry M. Gough, Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984)

Clarence R. Bolt, Thomas Crosby and the Tsimshian: Small Shoes for Feet Too Large (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1992)

Susan Neylan, The Heavens are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity (Montreal, Kingston, London and Ithaca, New York: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003)

Peter Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan (Victoria, British Columbia: Sono Nis Press, 1985)

The American Army occupation:

Letters and documents from National Archives, Department of War, Record Group 393: Records of United States Army Continental Commands, Records of the Department of Alaska 1867-1870 and Records of the Post of Sitka, 1867-1877

Reports by General Davis in Congressional Reports of the Secretary of War, including 1446, H.R. Doc 13, 41st Congress 2nd Session, 1870, 59-62

Frank Mahoney, “Letter from Frank Mahoney on the Indians and their trade in Eastern Alaska” Appendix F in Vincent Colyer, Bombardment of Wrangel, Alaska, Report of the Secretary of War, Secretary of the Interior, and Letter to the President (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1870)

Vincent Colyer, Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Made to the Secretary of the Interior, for the Year 1869, 586-587

Stanley Ray Remsberg, United States Administration of Alaska: The Army Phase, 1867-1877; A Study in Federal Governmance of an Overseas Possession University of Wisconsin, Madison PhD Dissertation, 1975.

Zachary R. Jones, “’Search For and Destroy’: The US Army’s Relations with Alaska’s Tlingit Indians and the Kake War of 1869,” Ethnohistory 60, no. 1 (Winter 2013), 1-26

Robert N. DeArmond and Richard A. Pierce, The USS Saginaw in Alaska Waters, 1867-68 (Kingston, Ontario and Fairbanks, Alaska: Limestone Press, 1997)

Zachary R. Jones, “The 1869 Bombardment of Kaachx an.áak’w from Fort Wrangell: The U.S. Army Response to Tlingit Law, Wrangell, Alaska” Sealaska Heritage Institute and National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, in collaboration with Wrangell Cooperative Association, City and Borough of Wrangell, 2015

Bobby Dave Lain, North of Fifty-Three: Army, Treasury Department, and Navy Administration of Alaska, 1867-1884 University of Texas at Austin, PhD Dissertation 1974

Don Craig Mitchell, Sold American, The Story of Alaska Natives and Their Land, 1867-1959 (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2003)

Sergei Kan, Memory Eternal: Tlingit Culture and Russian Orthodox Christianity through Two Centuries (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999)

Sidney Harring,“The Incorporation of Alaska Natives Under American Law: The United States and Tlingit Sovereignty, 1867-1900” (1989). CUNY Academic Works.http://academicworks.cuny.edu/cl_pubs/326


John Muir, Travels in Alaska (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988)

Aurel Krause, The Tlingit Indians, Results of a Trip to the Northwest Coast of America and the Bering Straits trans. Erna Gunther (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1956), 230

Ted C. Hinckley, Alaskan John G. Brady, Missionary, Businessman, Judge, and Governor, 1878-1918 (Miami, Ohio: Miami University, 1982) 25-73

In re Petition of Can-Ah-Couqua, 29 F 687 (1887) The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States, Volumes 29-30, accessed at books.google.com

[i] Zachary R. Jones lists the name “Shkaldikháa” as the name of Chilkat leader called “Colcheka” in note 29 “Search For and Destroy’: The US Army’s Relations with Alaska’s Tlingit Indians and the Kake War of 1869,” Ethnohistory 60, no. 1 (Winter 2013), 22, but he has it as Shkeedlikháa in an article in the Chilkat Valley News, September 16 2019, 3.

Shkeedlikháa is also the name of one or more Ghanaxhteidi (Raven) clan leaders of Chilkat, known in history from events around 1802 (Dauenhauer et al. 428) and also in the 1830s. The latter was possibly the artist who painted the Whale House Rain Screen, a masterpiece of Northwest Coast art. This man was the father of Kaagwaantaan leader Shaadaxhícht. (Emmons, 62)

The name of Shaadaxhicht was anglicized as Chartrich or Shotridge. However in this period and into the 1880s, Shaadaxhicht was known by a different name, recorded by George Thornton Emmons as Tlalkits, anglicized as “Koh Klux” or “Klotzkutch” by other writers of the time.

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