THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
In compliance with a resolution of the Senate of the 14th
instant, so much of the report of Vincent Colyer, special Indian commissioner,
as relates to the Indian village of Wrangel, Alaska, showing the condition of
that village previous to its recent bombardment by United States troops.
March 22, 1870.--Referred to the Committee on Military Affairs
and ordered to be printed.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. C., March 22, 1870.
SIR: In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, of the
14th instant, I have the honor to transmit herewith "so much of the report of
Vincent Colyer, special Indian commissioner, as relates to the Indian village of
Wrangel, Alaska, including the accompanying illustrations, now in the hands of
the government printer, showing the condition of that village previous to its
recent bombardment by the United States troops."
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HON. SCHUYLER COLFAX,
President of the Senate.
Washington, D.C., March 16, 1870
SIR: In response to the resolution of the Senate of the United
States, calling for "so much of my report on the Indian tribes of Alaska
Territory as relates to the Indian village of Wrangel, including the
accompanying illustrations, now in the hands of the government printer, showing
the condition of that village previous to its recent bombardment by the United
States troops," I have the honor to submit the following reports.
Sincerely, your obedient servant,
Secretary Board of Indian Commissioners.
Hon. J. D. COX,
Secretary of the Interior.
The Indian village of Wrangel is in latitude 56 degrees 27' 20",
and 132 degrees 13' 15" west, or about one hundred and thirty miles north of the
boundary line of British Columbia. It is located on a tongue of land and
cove in the northwest shore of Wrangel Island. On the opposite side of the
cove or other horn of the Crescent, the United States post is established about
eight hundred yards distant, with its guns commanding the village.* There
are thirty two houses in the village, and when all are at home there are five
hundred and eight inhabitants. Of these, one hundred and fifty nine pare
men, and three hundred and forty-nine are women and children. (See
Appendix A.) Of the men, about one half may be capable of bearing arms,
(as with us.) A number of the more athletic are usually absent with the
principal chief up the Stikine River, trading with the natives of the interior.
Their weapons of defense are a few old flint-lock muskets--mostly of Russian
make--some pikes, and knives, as they live by fishing, and the peaceful
interchange of smoked salmon and ulicum oil, for furs, &c., with the interior.
(See Appendix B and F.)
(NOTE: Next two paragraphs discuss sketches included in
the report. Sketches are not included here.)
*The post is garrisoned by Company I, Second United States
Artillery, First Lieutenant W. Borrowes, commanding.
INDIAN HOUSES AT WRANGEL.
The houses are well constructed habitations, built of plank
fastened on heavy timbers, well morticed [sic] together. They are large, being about forty by fifty feet square, one story high, and subdivided within into
smaller apartments. The interior apartments were, doubtless, copied by the
Indians from Ships' cabins, as these were the kind of habitations mostly seen by
the natives on board the ships so frequently visiting their coast; and this
illustrates quite remarkably the ability of these Indians to improve, and the
quickness and skill at imitation.
These cabins or private sleeping rooms of one family, are seen
in Sketch No. 4, (not included on this page) built on raised platforms.
They are as neatly finished as most whaling ships; cabins, and have bunks, or
places for beds, built on the inside around the sides. They vary in size,
being usually about ten by twenty feet, with ceilings seven feet high.
Some of the young men are quite skillful mechanics, handling
carpenters' tools with facility, and if you will closely examine the sketch (not
included on this page) you will see that there is a floor and raised platform of
boards, neatly fastened together, below the private cabins or rooms spoken of,
so that the amount of carpenter work about one of these houses is considerable.
They have a large opening in the roof, through which the smoke
of their fire passes, as see in No. 4. (not included on this page;
hereafter mentioned as ....) Usually, this opening in the roof is covered
with loose boards, which are placed on either side of the roof, according as the
wind may blow, always with an opening left, through which the smoke passes out.
Sometimes they build a large wooden chimney, like a cupola, over this opening,
but more commonly it is only covered with boards as described.
You will notice a .... a frame-work erected in the center of the
cabin. On this rack of untrimmed sticks they hang their salmon and other
fish to smoke and dry them over the fire. They then pack them for use in
square boxes neatly made of yellow cedar, smoked, oiled, and trimmed with bears'
teeth, in imitation of the nails we use our trunks--like the old brass nails of
Some of these Indian houses are quite elaborately painted on the
front, as .... the residence of Skillat's widow.
These paintings have an allegorical meaning, and frequently
represent facts in the history of the chief or the tribe.
In front of the entrance there is usually a porch, built with
railing, to prevent the children from falling off, and you will notice the round
hole for the entrance. They are covered inside with heavy wooden doors
securely fastened within by large wooden bars, as if for safety against attacks.
The doors are usually about four feet in diameter, and their circular form
resembles the opening of the "tepe" or tents of the tribes of the plains.
In front of most of the cabins of the chiefs, large poles,
elaborately carved, with figures imitating bears, sea-lions, crows, eagles,
human faces, and figures, are erected. These are supposed to represent
facts in the history of the chiefs, as well as being heraldic symbols of the
tribe. By referring to .... you will see the poles (very poorly engraved)
standing in front of the cabins; in another sketch not engraved is an enlarged
copy of these poles, and .... are some very curious colossal frogs, a bear, and
war-chief, with his "big medicine-dance" hat on. All of these things show
a great fondness for art, which, if developed, would bear good fruits. It also
shows that these Indians have the time, taste, and means for other things than
immediately providing the mere necessities of existence.
In the carving of their canoes they display great skill, making
them entirely by the eye. They are as accurately balanced and beautifully
modeled as possible. A copy of a canoe, with a group of Indian women
dressed in their highly colored blankets and calicoes, you will find .... (not
engraved in this edition.)
PEACEFUL CHARACTER OF THE INDIANS AT WRANGEL.
The testimony as to the peaceful and industrious character of
the Indians at Wrangel is abundant. On this point Leon Smith, the post
trader, who was killed, says in a letter to me dated October 30, 1869, "I have
found them to be quiet and well disposed toward the whites." Again, "The
Stikine tribe are a very hones tribe and partial to the whites." (See
Appendix C.) W. Wall, interpreter at Wrangel, says: "The majority of these
Indians are very industrious and are always anxious to get employment," and he
adds, "In conclusion, I have no hesitation in stating (after nearly three years'
experience in their means and ways) that these Indians if properly instructed
and advantage taken of the resources of the country, might not be comfortable,
but by the sale of furs and their other produce, might become wealthy."
(see Appendix D.)
Hon. William S. Dodge, ex-mayor of Sitka, says of the Alaska
Indians, as a whole: "They are of a very superior intelligence, and have rapidly
acquired many of the American ways of living and cooking. Their houses are
clustered into villages, very thoroughly and neatly built, and far more
substantial and pretentious than the log houses usually constructed by our hardy
In this description Mr. Dodge includes the Stikines, Kakes,
Kootzenoos, and the Koloshan tribes generally.
Of the Sitkas Mr. Dodge says: "They supply Sitka with its game,
fish, and vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, beets, and radishes, and they
are sharp traders."
Mr. Frank K. Louthan, post trader at Sitka, says of the Sitkas:
"They are industrious and ingenious, being able to imitate admirably almost
anything placed before them." He tells of their "chopping and delivering
one thousand cords of wood for the United States quartermaster, under many
disadvantages, as well, if not better, than it would have been done by the same
white labor, under similar circumstances."
Mr. Louthan further says: "That our Indians are susceptible of a
high standard of cultivation I have no doubt." "This can only be done by
the aid of industrial and educational schools. The missionary is working
to good advantage at Vancouver Island and at Fort Simpson, in whose schools can
be found men and women of high culture and refinement, fit to grace almost any
position in life."* "The Koloshans, our own Indians from Tongas to the
Copper River, are quite as intelligent and easy of culture, needing only the
same liberal system of education to, in a very short time, utilize them for
every purpose of government and usefulness." (See full report of F. K.
Louthan, Appendix E, and report of H. G. Williams, Appendix B.)
*Under charge of Rev. W. Duncan, who wrote the letter on page
10. V. C.
LIQUORS BROUGHT TO WRANGEL.
As I have reported at Tongas, so it was at Wrangel. A
quantity of porter and light wines, ten barrels of ale, and five barrels of
distilled spirits, (whisky, brandy, &c.,) were hoisted up from the hold of the
Newbern, marked Leon Smith, post trader at Wrangel. As I had called the
attention of the revenue officers to the violation of President Johnson's order
in landing the liquors at Tongas, the officer commanding the post at Wrangel
asked me my opinion of the business. I called his attention to the wording
of the papers permitting the shipment of the liquors from San Francisco.
It was the same as at Tongas--for the "use of the officers at the post."
The captain+ read this, reflected a moment, and then said that he would not
permit it to land. The beer and porter was landed and taken into Leon
Smith's store, and the whisky, brandy, rum, &c., was carried up to Sitka.
At Wrangel, as at Tongas, there is no medical attendance, nor
care or supervision of any kind whatever, other than military, over the
+ Brevet Captain Borrowes, U.S.A.
DEMORALIZING EFFECT OF THE NEAR PROXIMITY OF SOLDIERS AND
I have spoken of the ill effects of the near proximity of
soldiers to the Indian villages, and of the demoralizing effects upon both.
It is the same in all Indian countries. It appears to be worse here
because more need less. Nowhere else that I have visited is the absolute
uselessness of soldiers so apparent as in Alaska. The only communication
being by water--there are no roads by land--it follows that vessels suitable for
plying up the inland seas, manned by a few revenue officers or good, smart
sailors, will do more toward effectually preventing lawlessness among the
Indians, and smuggling or illicit trade with the whites and Indians, than five
hundred soldiers located at post. Nearly all the United States officers
that I have conversed with agree on the above, and recommend a reduction in the
force in this Territory. There are five hundred here now, when two hundred
would be ample for the whole Territory.
The soldiers will have whisky, and the Indians are equally fond
of it. The free use of this by both soldiers and Indians, together with
the other debaucheries between them, rapidly demoralizes both, though the
whites, having the larger resources, and being better cared for by the
government in houses, clothing, and food, endure it the longer.
The United States medical director of the department of Alaska,
Dr. E. J. Baily, says: "I am satisfied that little or nothing can be done until
they (the Indians of Alaska) are placed under more favorable influences. A
greater mistake could not have been committed than stationing troops in their
midst. They mutually debauch each other, and sink into that degree of
degradation in which it is utterly impossible to reach either through moral or
religious influences." (See report, Appendix G.)
ABUSE OF INDIANS AT WRANGEL.
On my return trip, while stopping at Wrangel, October 29, Leon
Smith, assisted by two half drunken discharged soldiers, assaulted an Indian who
was passing in front of his store. Mr. Smith, ex-confederate officer, said
that he was under the impression (mistaken, as he afterward admitted) that the
Indian had struck his little boy, and he only shook the Indian. The
drunken soldiers standing by then, of their own accord, (unsolicited, Mr. Smith
says, by him) seized the Indian, brutally beat him, and stamped upon him.
I had been taking a census of the village that afternoon, and hearing the shouts
of the party, met the Indian with his face badly cut and bleeding coming toward
his home. I immediately went to the post and suggested to the commandant
that he should have the drunken soldiers arrested and retained for trial.
He sent a lieutenant, with two or three me, "to quell the disturbance," the
Indians meanwhile having become excited and to "use his own discretion about
arresting the men." Lieutenant Loucks returned soon after without the
drunken soldiers, and gave as his reason that "the Indian struck Mr. Smith's
boy," which, as I have said, was disproved.
The drunken me belonged to a party of over one hundred
discharged soldiers who had come down on our steamer from Sitka, and were on
their way to San Francisco. Some of them had been drummed out of the
service for robbing the Greek church at Sitka, and for other crimes. I had
informed the commandant of their character the morning after our vessel arrived,
and suggested to him the propriety of preventing any of them from landing and
going to the Indian village. He replied that he had no authority to
prevent any one from landing. I was surprised at this, as I supposed
Alaska was an Indian territory, and that the military had supreme control.
The day after the assault upon the Indian, the commandant came
on board the Newbern and asked very kindly my opinion about the propriety of
attempting to arrest the two drunken soldiers, but as there were over one
hundred soldiers on board, and the affairs had occurred at near twilight, so
that it would be impossible to recognize the me, the impracticability of doing
this at that late hour was apparent.
The news of the bombardment of this village by the commandant of
the post reached us as we close report.
The connection of some of the events narrated above with those
mentioned in the report to the Secretary of War in his communication to the
United States Senate (Ex. Doc. No. 67, this site) inclosing the report of
Lieutenant Borrowes concerning the recent bombardment makes them interesting.
The following letter from Rev. Mr. Duncan the most successful
missionary among the Indians in British Columbia near the coast of Alaska,
speaking of the bombardment, is also important:
Letter from Rev. W. Duncan, superintendent of the Indian
missions in British Columbia, near the boundary line of Alaska.
Astor House, New York, February 28, 1870.
MY DEAR MR. COLYER: As I shall not have the pleasure of meeting
you on my way home to England, permit me, my dear sir, by note, to thank you
most sincerely for the very kind letter you wrote and left for me at Metlakahtla
last November. Your sympathy was very refreshing, and a fresh token of my
Heavenly Father's care over me.
I am glad to learn from your letter that something is soon to be
done for the spiritual welfare of the Indians of Alaska. What a pity it
is, I often think, the missionaries did not precede the soldiers, at least to
those places where there are only Indians, as at Fort Tongas and Fort Wrangel.
Military rule among Indians, while heathen, is, I feel sure, a fatal mistake.
It will only breed the troubles it was intended to check. (The blood of
poor Captain Smith, lately shot at Fort Wrangel, lies, I am sorry to say, at the
door of military authority there,) while both Indian and soldier are
reciprocating their vices, and both being plunged into utter ruin.
The accounts I have received from time to time of the conduct of
the soldiers in the Indian camps of the coast of Alaska are truly shocking.
If the United States government did but know half, I am sure they would shrink
from being identified with such abominations, and the cause of so much misery.
I hope and pray, that in God's good providence the soldiers will be moved away
from Fort Tongas and Fort Wrangel, where there are no whites to protect, and
missionaries sent in their places.
Give the missionary magisterial power, and authority to act as a
custom-house officer; let him choose a few Indian constables, and be
occasionally visited and supported by a ship of war, and all will go on well
both for the Indians and the country too. The Indian will gradually
advance under the missionary's kind rule, the customs laws will be efficiently
protected, at least within the vicinity of the mission, and the country (so far
as the Indians are concerned) become prepared for the white settlers. When
the whites have made settlements, let, if need be, soldiers be sent to them.
Excuse me, my dear sir, for thus intruding my opinion upon
matters which in one sense do not concern me, but I feel I cannot let pass this
opportunity for venting my grief as what I see in the military establishment of
Alaska, which will, I am sure, unless changed or removed, render utterly
abortive any measures you may adopt for teaching and civilizing the natives.
How rejoiced I feel that there are those in this land who are
seeking the welfare of the poor Indian.
May God direct and bless your every effort in your benevolent
If it should please, and be the will of Almighty God that I
shall return to Metlakahtla, I do hope I may have the pleasure of seeing you on
my way thither. Believe me, my dear sir, yours, very sincerely and
Christian Missionary Society House, Salisbury Square, London.
For a statement of the practical working of the Indian law by
which the nearest of kin is expected to avenge the death of his relative killed,
I call your attention to a portion of the report of Frank K. Louthan, Appendix
It was in obedience to this law that Leon Smith, the post trader
at Wrangel, was killed by the relative of Siawan, the Indian shot by order of
It will be seen by Mr. Louthan's report that this law was well
understood by all the old traders in Alaska.
Respectfully submitted by, very respectfully, your obedient
United States Special Indian Commissioner.
Hon J. D. COX,
Secretary of the Interior.
Census of the Indian village (Stikine) at Wrangel, Alaska
|Women and children
Report from Harry G. Williams.
THE STICKINE INDIANS AT WRANGEL.
Fort Wrangel, Alaska Territory, October 30, 1869.
DEAR SIR: Immediately after leaving you on board the
steamer Newbern, I was snugly stored away as a guest of the post surgeon, in his
quarters. H. M. Kirke, acting assistant surgeon United States Army, gave
me a very interesting account of the nature, customs, means of livelihood,
occupation, and also of the diseases and manner of their treatment among the
Of their nature, he says, they are very docile and friendly,
ingenious, and labor well and faithfully, but by being brought into contact with
unprincipled white men are soon found to adopt and imitate their manners and
In their customs they still maintain the most of those
originally observed by their nation. However, many of them take great
pride in imitating civilized ways of dress, which in their opinion renders them
equally as good as a white man. Their means of livelihood are chiefly by
salmon fishing, which they catch in immense numbers, and prepare for winter use
by drying and smoking, after which they are stored away carefully. Many of
them use flour, but prefer hard bread and crackers when they are able to obtain
them. They are very fond of coffee, sugar, and molasses, and like all
other Indians easily become fond of ardent spirits, to obtain which they will
sometimes sacrifice nearly everything in their possession. In this manner
they are imposed upon by those who know no principle or law, who have been known
to sell them essence of peppermint, Stoughton's bitters, and absinthe, charging
them four dollars a bottle, (holding one pint.) Absinthe is a compound
which, if used as a constant beverage, soon unseats the mind, produces insanity,
and sometimes death. Dr. Kirke tells me that he can find none among them
who are entirely free from the indications of some form of disease. A
large number of them are more or less inoculated with the different forms of
venereal diseases, which, had they proper protection could be avoided. But
I regret to say that men cannot be blamed for following examples set by their
superiors, the consequence of which is the Indian women become mere concubines,
at the will of those whose duty it is to try and elevate and degrade them.
These women are never known to seek and such degrading intercourse, but permit
it merely for the pecuniary gain it affords them. Justice, honor, and
manhood point the finger of scorn, and cry shame to such. Men with
virtuous, noble wives and children, even to stoop to such acts! Thanks a
kind heavenly Master, there will be a time when such men can be seen in their
true character, and be made to feel the power of an avenging hand. I am
fully convinced that by kind and careful teaching this great evil could be
remedied and the Indian race again restored to its former virtue and honor, and
gradually become an intelligent, industrious, and educated people.
THE STIKINE RIVER
After remaining at Wrangel one week I procured an Indian guide,
purchased a canoe and sufficient provisions to last three months, and Monday, at
half past one p.m., September 13, started on a tour of inspection up the Stikine
River, the mouth of which is about ten miles north from Wrangel Island. We
reached main land about four p.m., and after luncheon again resumed our journey,
overtaking a number of Indians during the afternoon.
These Indians were from Wrangel, and on their way to the
interior, where they go every fall to trade for the furs of more distant tribes.
A systematic form of exchange is carried on from one tribe to another until it
reaches the coast tribes, thus bringing many valuable furs many hundred miles
from the interior of a vast and unexplored country.
As we advanced, day after day, the general appearance of the
country gradually assumed a better appearance. The scenery along the river
is far beyond my power of description. Immense mountains, whose
snow-crowned heads pierce the dome of heaven in solemn and domestic grandeur,
rise in every direction.
COAL, IRON, AND COPPER.
In many places on these mountains could be seen huge masses of
coal, looking as though a little push would set them tumbling down their sides.
Iron and copper abound in many places, and gold can be found in every direction,
very thinly scattered. As yet no discoveries have been made that would
warrant a speedy acquirement of wealth by mining, but the indications are very
good that at no distant day very rich mines will be found. A strong party
of prospectors left Victoria in May last, for the purpose of exploring the
entire interior westward, and are daily expected to make their appearance
somewhere along the coast. Many are ready and waiting to embrace any new
discoveries they may have made in their long journey. As we advanced to
the interior we found a greater change in the condition of the Indians.
They being removed from the coast, had no idea of wrong or evil actions.
They are far more honest than the same number of white men would be under the
same circumstances. You can form an idea of this from the following, which
I learned from an eye-witness: In 1862 a large immigration of miners to the
coast was caused by the discoveries of gold about two hundred miles up the
Stikine River, at a bar named after the discoverer, (Mr. Chockett, nicknamed
Buck,) hence the name of "Buck's Bar," which was worked but one or two years,
(owing to the difficulty of getting provisions,) and then nearly all of them
returning, many left their entire kits of tools and working utensils and goods
of every variety; some hung them up on trees, others stowed them away in caves
and niches in the rocks, and abandoned them. The Indians are continually
passing them, and have been known to replace them when their fastenings would
give way and let them fall to the ground, thereby showing not even the existence
of a wrong thought in the minds of these red men. The only thing they have
ever been known to appropriate was a few potatoes and about five pounds of flour
belonging to one of the miners there, and this they were almost forced to take
from inability to procure sufficient food to sustain life. This instance
can be multiplied by many more of the same nature, were it necessary.
Fifty miles up the river is an abandoned house, once used by the Hudson's Bay
Company for trading with the Indians.
THE GLACIER OF THE STIKINE
Opposite this place is an immense glacier, about four miles long
and an unknown width, extending westward between two large mountains, until it
is no longer discernible. It varies in depth from one to five or six
hundred feet, commencing near the water and extending along its course.
The top is furrowed and cut by the rain into every variety of shape, only
needing a small addition to form correct images of houses, towers, giants,
cavers, and many other forms. Viewed from the east side of the river, when
the sun is shining full upon it, it presents a most beautiful appearance, its
innumerable points glistening like burnished silver, and its caverns becoming
more dark by comparison. Toward sunset the effect of the day's sun causes
it to crack, which makes a deep rumbling noise that can be heard for ten or
fifteen and sometimes twenty miles. Immediately opposite its center,
across the river, is a boiling spring, bubbling up in eight or ten places, whose
water is so hot that it will crisp a person's boots in a very short time, as
many incautious persons can testify. It seems as if nature must have been
on a frolic during her stay here, and becoming chilled from the glacier, came
across the river and found this warm stream in which to sport.
Along the river are four other smaller glaciers, but, compared
with this one, they become mere snow-balls. Seventy-five miles from the
mouth of the river is located the trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company in
charge of their agent, Mr. Chockett, known throughout the country as "Buck;" he
is esteemed very highly by the Indians, from the fact that his dealings have
been uniform, and his promises always faithfully redeemed, thus gaining a firm
place in their estimation. At the time of my visit he showed me over eight
hundred marten, one thousand beaver, and a large number of many other kind of
furs; this being about the middle of the trading season with him. He has
been two hundred and seventy-five miles from there up the river into the
interior prospecting for gold. Sixty miles from there you reach an immense
canyon, ninety miles long, extending through the Coast or Chigmet Mountains.
The current in this place runs so rapidly that you can form no idea of its
speed. It reminds you of a huge gun, as you see fragments of trees and
logs fly along in its angry foaming waters. In some places the rocky sides
gradually incline inward, until at a distance of two or three hundred feet about
the water they come so close that a good jump will take you across the yawning
chasm below. In the spring, when the ice breaks up in the river, the water
rises from forty to sixty feet in this canyon and you may imagine its appearance
After crossing the mountains, you reach a beautiful prairie,
well water and plenty of fine timber. Here are found deer, bear, antelope,
mountain sheep, beaver, and nearly every variety of game, excepting the buffalo.
The gold continues about the same, and is found to a small extent in river bars.
No quartz existing precludes the idea of any large deposits in this vicinity.
The change in the climate is more striking than that of the
country. It is clear, bright, and invigorating, with but very little rain.
The atmosphere is so pure that you can see much further and more distinctly than
in any other climate. The nights are almost as bright as the day; so
bright that you can easily read coarse print. The Indians in this vicinity
have almost an Eden to live in; game and fish in endless number seem to be only
waiting their will. These tribes make annual journeys overland southward,
and meet those coming from the coast, thus finding a ready market for their furs,
for which they obtain ammunition, guns, axes, buttons, cloth, and tobacco; also
many other small notions. But very little liquor ever reaches them, and
thus they escape the great source of degradation and corruption which soon
sweeps away nations, power, and happiness. I do not wish my readers to
think that I am a rigid temperance man, for I am not. I regard liquor the
same as any other article of drink or food; that is, if it is properly used, it
will not injure any one; but abused, it becomes a scourge and lashes hardest
those who embrace it most, degrading them even below the brute creation.
Its effect on the Indian is much different and more dangerous than on the white
man. When an Indian becomes intoxicated, he becomes wild, reckless, and
cruel, not even hesitating to kill any one who may meet his displeasure.
They will continue drinking as long as they can procure liquor, thus showing how
rapid would be their course toward a fearful end.
At the time of my leaving Philadelphia, my opinion was like the
masses who had ever seen or inspected the Indian in his own native power and
country; i.e., "that he was incapable of ever being civilized or becoming of any
importance whatever." Since my journey and inspection of the different
tribes who I met, and observing the change produced in them by association
alone, every item of doubt regarding it is turned to a certainty, that they can,
under honest, faithful instruction, be advanced far beyond our imagination.
After running up the Stikine, I then entered one of its
tributaries, about one hundred and fifty miles up, called the Clear Water River.
It was named by a party of miners, from the fact of its water being much more
clear than the Stikine. The Clear Water runs southeast. It is a very
rapid stream indeed, and in many places very shallow. It can be navigated
with difficulty about fifteen or twenty miles in canoes, where rapids occur so
frequently that no one cares to risk life and property by braving them.
Here the climate is very fine and healthy, inhabited by the "Stick" or Tree
Indians. These Indians partake of the same descriptions and traits of
those along the Stikine. We left our canoe moored in a small side stream
in full view of a trail in constant use by this tribe, and during a week which I
spent in traveling from there in every direction, not a single article was
disturbed by them. I frequently met them, and would ask them in their own
language ("Mika manik, mika canin?") "Did you see my canoe?" They
would say ("Moitka") "Yes;" and on returning I could see their trail pass it,
but no indication of their approaching. I prospected in many places for
gold, and found but very little difference between the deposits here and
elsewhere, with one exception. About ten miles from camp and five miles up
a large creek (coming in from the northeast) called Boulder Creek, deriving its
name from the amount of large boulders found along its course, is a fall of
about five or six feet, at the foot of which are some small deposits of coarse
gold buried among huge boulders of many tons' weight. It is not in
sufficient quantities to warrant an investment in mining tools &c., necessary to
overcome these obstacles and remunerate any one for time and trouble.
Becoming fully convinced that there was nothing in this section
sufficient to recompense me for the sacrifice of home and its surroundings, I
determined on returning to them as soon as possible. Accordingly, October
21, all things being in readiness, at day-break I bid farewell to our old camp
and its pleasant surroundings, headed the canoe down the stream, and began a
journey of nearly five thousand miles homeward bound. In the first day's
travel we ran about eighty miles, encountering many dangerous places, but coming
through them all safely. Many times, in spit of our united efforts, the
current would sweep us against its rocky boundary, and almost smash our canoe.
Again in trying to avoid huge trees (left in the river at high water) we would
be forced to head our boat directly for them, and with silent prayer wait the
result. The canoe being gradually rounded from its bottom up to a long
sharp bow, and driven ten or twelve miles an hour by the strong current, would
strike the tree and seem to leap out of the water over it, as if it was running
from some fearful danger.
The next day's run we reached the Great Glacier, and camped in
the old house, remaining there one day to overhaul our goods and feast our eyes
on the beautiful scenery. After tramping over a large mountain and
shooting some grouse and squirrels I returned to camp, and next morning
determined to reach Wrangel again. It was a long and hard pull of sixty
miles, the river having become much wider and the current ran from four to six
miles an hour. We reached there about 9 p.m. tired and hungry, and were
welcomed back and well entertained. Our friends were about sending a canoe
up after us, fearing that we would not survive the dangers of the return trip.
We were disappointed at not finding any letters from home there for us.
Thursday night we were awakened by the signal gun of the Newbern, and our hearts
gave a great bound of joy at the prospect of a speedy return to the dear ones
far away. If in this simple, unpretending letter you find anything
instructive or interesting I shall be amply repaid for this attempt at a
description which, in good hands, would fill a large volume, every item being of
interest. As it is I must endeavor to double the "one talent" given, that
it may be well with me. For the kind Christian advice given me by you on
our way up from San Francisco I thank you most earnestly, for through it I have
been greatly benefited. Although I may never repay you, your reward awaits
you in heaven. May God's blessing ever rest on you and your efforts is the
Your devoted friend,
HARRY G. WILLIAMS,
Special United States Indian Commissioner.
Letter from Leon Smith.
WRANGEL ISLAND, A.T., October 20, 1869.
DEAR SIR: In answer to your questions of yesterday, permit me to
say the number of Indians at this point is estimated to be about 500.
Since my arrival here, the 1st of March, 1869, I have found them
to be quiet, and seem well disposed toward the whites.
They live on fish (smoked salmon) and game, and they provide
themselves with clothing from the furs they gather, either by trade or trapping.
Twice a year most of the Indians make a trip up the Stikine
River to Talyan, at which place the Stick tribe reside, and trade with them for
interior marten, mink, beaver, bear, wolverine, lynx, land otter, and some other
skins. They take up salmon, fish oil, blankets, domestics, red cloth,
beads, molasses, flour, and in fact every other article suitable for Indian
trade. They give about ten yards of print for one prime marten; three and
a half pounds of salmon, three gallons of molasses, for the same, and for other
skins in proportion.
The Stick tribe, [is] a very honest tribe, and partial to the
whites. I will now start from this point and go with you to Talyan, on the
North Fork. We leave here and go about seven miles to the mouth of the
Stikine with say, five Indians in my canoe. The current is rapid at all
seasons. We reach the glacier, thirty-five miles from the mouth, in two
days; from there we proceed to the Hudson's Bay Company's post, two miles about
the boundary line between Hudson's Bay Company and Alaska, a distance of thirty
miles, in two days--four days from the mouth. From here we find the
current very rapid, and we tow our canoe along the two banks; we send three of
our men on shore to two, and keep one in the bow and stern. We tug along
about ten miles a day until we reach Shakesville, named after the chief of the
Stikine tribe, with whom you are acquainted. We reached Shakesville in
about five days, about fifty miles from the Hudson's Bay Company, being about
one hundred and thirty miles from the mouth. From here we tug along twelve
miles to Buck's Bar, at which point, or in its vicinity, some eleven miners are
at work on surface digging. They average about three dollars a day, and
generally come to the mouth to winter. The men do some trading in furs.
They here find silver, copper, coal, and iron, but, with the exception of coal,
not in large quantities. The coal near the North Fork is of good quality,
the vein being some thirty feet. We now leave Buck's Bar, bound to Talyan,
a distance of twenty miles. We work hard for three days, and at last make
fast to the banks at Talyan. We are received kindly by the chief, Nornuck,
and by all the tribe. The tribe remain away from home, and at their
hunting grounds, about six months out of the year. They do their trading
with the Stikines; the Hudson's Bay Company sends goods up, and in fact do most
all the trading. * * *
* * * *
I spoke to you of Mr. Charles Brown's farm and waterfall.
He tells me that he has raised about fifteen tons of potatoes, two tons of
cabbage, four tons of turnips, and a large quantity of beets, lettuce, peas,
carrots, &c. He has a turnip weighing six pounds. Potatoes average
well; some came aboard yesterday.
The lake is about one mile wide, and two and one-half long; the
fall is about forty feet, with water enough to run forty saw-mills. Mr.
Brown has been living at that point about two years; it is about ten miles from
Out of six pounds of seed Mr. Brown tells me he raised four
hundred and fifteen pounds of potatoes.
Mr. Hogan, a miner at Buck's Bar for two years, tells me that
the altitude of the country will not permit them to raise vegetables; the
country is broken, mountainous, and swampy.
Of the other tribes of the Territory I know nothing.
Hoping you will excuse the hurriedly penned memorandum, I am,
sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. VINCENT COLYER,
Special Indian Commissioner.
Letter from W. Wall.
FORT WRANGEL, A. T., November 8, 1869.
DEAR SIR: The Stikine Indians live at present on a small
bay near the northern extremity of Wrangel Island, and within about seven miles
from the mouth of the river Stikine. They number altogether about three
hundred, and are divided into nine tribes, each tribe having a chief, and all
subject to one chief.
The present chief is Shakes; he does not possess by any means
the authority and influence which his predecessor did; the principal reason is
he is very poor, and another is he reports to the commanding officer all the
misdeeds of the village. He is well disposed, and his only fault is his
fondness for whisky, which is the cause of his poverty.
The majority of these Indians are very industrious and are
always anxious to get employment, but, like all the Indians on the coast, are
passionately fond of whisky. Such is their desire for it that they will
dispose of their most valuable furs at a most extraordinary sacrifice to obtain
it. However, since the country came into the possession of the United
States they have not as many opportunities as formerly of gratifying their
It is a well-known fact, that the sale of whisky to Indians on
this coast, (and to the interior Indians through these on the coast,) has
reduced their numbers, caused petty feuds, idleness, theft, and predisposes them
to disease and mortality, reducing them to the level of the lowest brute.
They are artful and cunning, and to gain a point will tell lies in a most
bare-faced manner; at the same time they look upon a respectable white man as
incapable of telling an untruth; and if a white man once deceives them by
telling an untruth, or otherwise, they look upon him as below caste, and will
avoid as much as possible all future dealings with him.
It is also a well-known fact that immorality among the Indian
tribes is not so general as when they associate with the white population.
Both male and female seem to suffer alike by the association, and the natural
consequence is quite evident--disease and a remarkable decrease in population.
The principal sustenance of these Indians is fish, berries, fish
oil, seal oil, venison, and mountain sheep. Potatoes and turnips they are
very fond of, and buy them in considerable quantities from the Hydahs, who live
further up, and seem to understand their cultivation.
The soil and climate here are well suited for the growth of
potatoes, turnips, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, beets. &c.; but both from the
want of knowledge and of implements the Indians never make an earnest attempt;
they simply cultivate a few potatoes in a most indifferent manner.
The fur-bearing animals on the coast are numerous, and good of
their kind, viz: bears, mink, and hair seal; and it is strange how these Indians
neglect, in a great measure, this very important source of wealth. I can
account for it in this way: their appliances for procuring the means of
subsistence are so indifferent, and their total neglect of raising any
vegetables leaves them in that condition that they really have neither the time
nor the independence to go out for a two or three months; trapping expedition.
However, there are some exceptions which go to prove the statement which I make.
I know one Indian who last winter killed twelve large and eight small bears,
about thirty minks, and a number of hair seals; he had besides a small patch of
potatoes; this Indian had only his wife to assist him. In conclusion, I
have no hesitation in stating, (after nearly three years' experience in their
mans and ways,) that these Indians, if properly instructed, and advantage taken
of the resources of the country, they might not only become comfortable, but by
the sale of furs and their other produce become comparatively wealthy.
I have much pleasure in offering you these hurried remarks,
hoping you might find them useful in assisting you in this good work you have
I am, sir, yours, most respectfully,
Hon. VINCENT COLYER,
United States Special Indian Commissioner.
Report from F. K. Louthan on the Indian tribes of Alaska.
ALASKA, October 28, 1869.
DEAR SIR: A residence of nearly two years at Sitka,
intimately associated with the trade of the country, and in daily communication
with the Indians, has afforded me some advantages for observing the habits and
wants, manners and customs, of these people.
I need only refer to the Sitkas, whose history and character
afford an example that pertains, in a peculiar degree, to all of the tribes on
our coast, from Fort Tongas, near our southern boundary line, to Copper River,
away to the northward and westward, about six hundred miles.
The village of the Sitkas consists of fifty-six houses, well
built and comfortable, adjoining the town of Sitka, or New Archangel, being
separated only by the palisade, a rude defensive line of upright logs, placed by
the old Russian American Company. The village contains a population of
about twelve hundred souls all told. They have been, and are now, governed
by one great chief, aided by sub-chiefs, all of whom are elected by the tribe.
It is impossible for me to give the number of the latter, their position being
neither arbitrary nor perpetual, as is that of the great chief or "tye."
They live by fishing and hunting, each in their proper season, the men devoting
a large portion of their time trading with the interior Indians for furs, giving
in exchange their dried salmon and halibut, cotton goods, printed and plain,
blankets, guns, powder, balls, &c.
They are industrious and ingenious, being able to imitate
admirably almost anything place before them. Of their industry, I need
only to refer to the fact that for the quartermaster and myself, in a few days'
notice, they supplied, under great disadvantages, both of weather and means, one
thousand cords of wood, Russian measure, of 216 cubic feet each. This
large amount of wood was cut from one to four miles away from our town, and
delivered and corded by them as well, if not better, than would have been done
by the same white labor under similar disadvantages.
Our Indians are shrewd traders, readily understanding prices and
values, easily understanding both our coins of different denominations, and our
"greenbacks." They are tractable and kind when kindly treated, but
vindictive ad exacting full compensation for wrongs inflicted, come from what
quarters they may. All. difficulties, even that of killing one of their
number, is measured by an estimated value, "so many blankets," or the equivalent
in money, or what they may elect. The failure to promptly pay for a real
or supposed injury is at once the signal for retaliation. I can but look
with great favor upon the system on the part of the government, of adapting
itself to the one idea, immediate settlement with their people for all wrongs of
magnitude, (whether on the part of the military or the individual,) entirely
upon estimated value. This is the time-honored custom of the red man in
Alaska, and pertains to all alike, wherever dispersed throughout the vast
At present it is more than folly to attempt to induct him into
any other way of looking at a wrong or injury. Authority, with definite
instructions to our rulers, whether civil or military, to in this way settle all
disputes, especially when life has been taken, will always keep him (the Indian)
peaceable and friendly, and in the end save to the government many notable lives
and a large expenditure of treasure.
I am led to these reflections by observing that in this way the
Hudson's Bay Company and the Russian-American Fur Company have, for nearly a
century, lived in comparative security among the Pacific coast Indians, failing
in but few instances, a confidence betrayed, property taken, or life endangered,
Again, my own personal experience is a powerful example of the
system of such a course. Last New Year's eve a difficulty occurred at the
market-house in Sitka, between a Chilkaht chief and a soldier, a sentinel, which
resulted in the imprisonment in the guard-house of the chief, and through some
unaccountable manner the death by shooting, in a day or two afterward, of three
Indians. For a full account of these early difficulties I refer you to a
report of General J. C. Davis, made about that time.
Among the Indians killed was one Chilkaht, one Kake, and one
Sitka. The Kakes very promptly sought the usual remedy, but, failing to
satisfy themselves, adopted their extreme remedy, "an eye for an eye, a tooth
for a tooth;" meeting two white men near their village, promptly dispatched
them, thereby lost all of their village, burned by order of the general
commanding; hence the so-called "Kake war."
For nearly five months no coast or interior Indians appeared
among us, to the great detriment of trade, the Chilkahts especially keeping
themselves aloof from us all winter. Well knowing the chief and most of
his people, I determined to pay them a visit for purpose of trade and to restore
friendly relations. First, a small schooner reached their village in May
last, and found them sullen and listless, and effected but little in any shape
for several days. At the end of the fourth day our little vessel was
suddenly boarded by about seventy-five well-armed men, bent on satisfaction
either in property or life, for the man killed at Sitka nearly five months
previous. The exigencies of my situation required prompt and immediate
action. Asking, front our closed cabin, an audience, it being granted, I
stepped out among them with my interpreter, an Indian, and while protesting
against their wish that I should pay for what had been done by our military
chief at Sitka, satisfied them by giving them a letter to the general
commanding, asking him, for the sake of trade and security to life, to pay for
the man killed, giving my promise to the Indians to pay for the dead man if the
The general refused to listed to the delegation waiting on him
with my letter. I returned with my vessel again to Sitka and to Chilkaht,
when I promptly paid the price asked--thirteen blankets and one coat, amounting
in value, all told, to about fifty dollars, coin. I feel quite sure that
in this simple settlement I arrested serious trouble to myself and probably to
I made afterward a similar settlement with the Chilkahts in
Sitka, for one of their men killed by a young man in my employ. I can
safely say that, dealt with in this way, there need never be any serious
complication of Indian affairs in this Territory. Many irregularities and
immoralities exist among our coast Indians. Like their brothers of the
plains, they are great lovers of whisky, and will barter their all to get it.
They should be prohibited its use, but how to effect this is a problem I am
unable to solve, unless the importation is entirely prohibited. That our
Indians are susceptible of a high standard of cultivation there can be no
possible doubt. This can only be done by the aid of industrial and
educational schools. The missionary is working to good advantage at
Vancouver among the Hydahs, and at Fort Simpson among the Chemseans. [sic] In
these two tribes can be found men and women of high culture and refinement, fit
to "grace almost nay position in life."
The Koloshan, our own Indians from Tongas to the Copper River,
are quite as intelligent and easy of culture, needing only the same liberal
system of education to, in a very short time, fully utilize them for every
purpose of government and usefulness.
The inhospitality of the country, differing as it does so widely
from the usual fields of civilized men, must for a long time make the Indian the
nucleus of population of Alaska; and if so, how very essential that he be at
once advanced through education and example to his high destiny.
While the manners and customs are the same of the whole Koloshan
race, there is a marked difference in the wealth and condition of those tribes
living on the mainland coast over that of the islander. Position, custom,
and numbers have given to the former the entire control of the valuable trade
with the interior, in some five of the great mainland tribes, each warlike and
powerful, and equally jealous of any encroachments on their peculiar privileges.
Beginning north we have the Copper River Indians, variously
estimated from three to four thousand strong but little is known of this people.
They are, however, known to be very rich in furs.
S. Ex. Doc. 68----2
The early Russians told fabulous stories of the existence of
both gold and copper on this river, which is proved by the fact that the Indians
are at times seen to use these metals in their ornaments.
Next in order, south, are the Klahinks, about one thousand
strong. They live in the great basin or park known as Behring Bay, between
Mount St. Elias and Mount Fairweather, and have a splendid communication with
the interior by means of two long, fine rivers emptying into the bay.
These Indians are gentle, hospitable, and kind, but are poor, having been
neglected by the traders for the last three years. They are in quick
communication with a splendid fur-bearing country, and only require a market to
develop splendid resources.
Next in order are the Hoonid, or Cross Sound Indians, two
thousand strong. They live on the eastern bank of the sound for a distance
of sixty miles, and are the oil merchants of the coast, taking enormously large
quantities of seal, dog-fish, and ulican oil, which they barter to their
brethren along the coast. These oils are used largely by our Indians as an
article of food; it is used by them as we use butter.
At the head of the Chatham Straits, almost due north from Sitka,
two hundred and twenty miles, are the Chilkahts, at least ten thousand strong.
They are a brave and warlike people, "more sinned against than sinning." I
have had much to do with them, and ever found them honest, faithful, and kind.
Their villages extend from the mouth to a distance of seventy-five miles up the
Chilkaht River. Coal and iron abound in inexhaustible quantities; huge
masses of iron can be found among the boulders almost anywhere along the banks
of the noble stream. The Indians state the existence of gold in the
mountain passes of the river. The "color" has been found near the mouth.
On every hand can be seen quartz cropping boldly out from a width of from one to
twenty feet. Nothing is known of its character or value. These
Indians are among the richest, if not the wealthiest, of our coast Indians.
Large quantities of the most valuable furs are annually gathered and sold by
them. They are in every way independent.
Twenty miles north of Sitka, and east of Admiralty Island
seventy-five miles, are the Takoos, living at the head of Takoo Inlet, on the
Takoo River. These Indians claim to be richer in furs than any of the
tribes around them. About the same quantity can be got here as on the
Chilkaht. Some idea may be gathered of the large trade at one time done
with them when I state but a short time ago the Hudson's Bay Company made their
trade lease from the Russian-American Company's furs taken in a single trip of
their steamer over five thousand marten skins, and other valuable skins in
The Takoos number about the same as the Chilkahts, and are a
proud and haughty race. Gold is well know to exist anywhere along this
river, but the Indians have steadily refused to permit any development.
Coal is also found here in large quantities; indeed it is found throughout the
coast and islands of our inland waters. Of salmon it would be invidious to
particularize; they are found in endless numbers anywhere in our fresh-water
streams. The largest and best are found in the Takoo, Chilkaht, Behring
Bay, and Copper river, reaching an enormous size, many of them weighing seventy
Give Alaska a market and she will soon develop a second New
The conformation of our mountain ranges are not unlike those of
Washington, Oregon and California. They form our coast and are
iron-clad--a greater portion of them iron. A distance of twenty or thirty
miles will pass one through this range where is found an almost level plateau
well covered with timber. This plateau extends inland for a distance of
from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty miles, when another chain of
mountains is reached, answering to what is known as the Cascade Range in Oregon,
or the Blue Range in California.
There can be no doubt, from what the Indians tell us, in this
plateau, between the two ranges, the prospectors will at no distant day develop
a field as rich in the precious minerals as anything found in the southward.
Hon. VINCENT COLYER,
Fort Wrangel, A. T.
Letter from Frank Mahoney on the Indians and their trade in
Sitka, A. T.
DEAR SIR: In compliance with your request I give you my
views in relation to the various Indian tribes of this Territory as far as my
observation goes. In regard to the population and number of some of the
tribes I have no data; of others I can speak from observation; that is to say,
from Cook's Inlet to the southern boundary.
From what I can learn of the extreme northwest, in the Behring Sea to the
Straits, the Indians lead a wandering life, and are variously designated as the
"Kochunsky," "Onossky," "Cagatsky," and "Colching." These tribes are
estimated from four thousand to five thousand. During the winter months,
say from October to April, they will wander over immense tracts of country, in
bands of from fifty to one hundred, sometimes undergoing great privation; and it
has been said that they will sometimes sacrifice one of their number to save the
rest from starvation. Their occupation is trapping and hunting the
reindeer. They will travel during this season of the year from the valley
of Yukon to Copper River, stopping for short periods where game and furs are
plenty. They will sometimes touch the shores of Prince William Sound, Cook
Inlet, and also the western shore, in Behring Sea. The skins they collect
are fine marten, mink, silver and black fox. The few natives the writer
has see show them to be a peaceable race and respectful to the white man,
looking upon him as a superior; there is no doubt but they could be shaped into
useful citizens in time.
To the south, on the Aleutian chain of islands and on the peninsula of
Unalaska, are the Aleutes, a very quiet race, and nearly all Christians.
Their number is said to be about seven thousand. Those living on the
islands are engaged in fur-sealing, sea-otter hunting, and trapping the fox, of
which there are the silver, cross, ad red. They are found employed at the
different trading posts in the Territory.
The Indians of Cook Inlet and adjacent waters are called "Kanisky."
They are settled along the shore of the inlet and on the east shore of the
peninsula. A very sociable race of Indians, their number is from five
hundred to eight hundred. During the winter months they leave the shores
for the purpose of hunting and trapping when in the spring they return to their
summer homes, dispose of their winter products to traders for tea, sugar,
tobacco, sheeting, prints, clothing, flour, hardware, such as knives, axes,
hatchets, &c. The spring and summer, till the later part of June, is
passed in idleness, when the salmon season commences, and lasts until August,
when they dry large quantities of salmon, weighing from forty to one hundred
East of Cook Inlet, in Prince William Sound, there are but few Indians; they
are called "Nuchusk." There may be about four hundred in all with some few
Hutchinson, Kohn & Co. have a post on the south end of Henebrooke Island,
which is the depot for the furs that come down the Copper River, although they
collect many sea-otter, for which the shore about the mouth of copper River and
around Middleton Island is famous.
Every year, the middle of June, three or four large skin-canoes, capable of
carrying five tons each are sent up Copper River, loaded with trading goods,
done up in one-hundred-pound packages, covered with water-tight skins, so that
should accident happen, which not unfrequently [sic] occurs, the goods are
portable to handle. It takes about eighty days to make the trip; the
canoes are hauled most of the way on the ice, on their ascent of the river.
On the return, the winter collection of furs is brought down, the river then
being clear of ice. The magazine is about eighty miles up the river.
The Indians about Copper River are called "Madnussky," or Copper Indians, and
may be classed with the wandering tribes. To the east along the coast,
about one hundred and fifty miles from the mouth of the Copper River, we come to
Behring Bay. The most northern of the Kolosh Indians, of which there are
numerous tribes, extending to Portland Canal, all speak the same language with a
little difference in dialect. They are a savage and piratical race, and as
a general thing are not to be trusted. Fear of punishment for outrages
keeps them in order.
I herewith add a list of the tribes from Behring Bay to the southern
||Name of tribe.
Of the Yakutat tribe, they have but few furs in the winter; they
do nothing in spring. They trade and trap with some Indians to the south
of them, who live on some small streams that empty into the ocean. I could
get no information from them respecting their neighbors, regarding their numbers
and language. All they said was that they were more numerous than
themselves, and they made good trade with them for marten, mink, fox, bear,
wolverine, and lynx, for which they gave them tobacco, brown sheeting, needles,
thread, knives, buttons, beads, &c.
The Yakutats have been in the habit of trading with the Sitkas
and Chilkahts, who in the summer season pay them visits, taking from Sitka such
articles as dry goods, powder, shot, knives, and trinkets, bringing back furs.
The Whinegas have but few furs; they are chiefly employed in
hair-seal fishing, of which they get abundance; they get in trade about eight
cents apiece for them. They also get some marten, mink, fox, and bear from
We go north to Chilkaht, at the head of the inlet so named,
where there is a river on which are three villages; each village is presided
over by a chief.
The Chilkahts are the most numerous of all the Kolosh tribes.
They catch some furs about their own grounds, but the greater portion comes from
the interior, or where they go to trade twice a year, spring ad fall.
There is no doubt but they make a big profit on the skins they bring down.
Nothing is known of these interior Indians, only what the coast
Indians say, that they are called "Si-him-e-na, or Stick Indians." They
will allow no whites to pass up the rivers. The trade which the coast
Indians take into the interior consists of dry goods, blankets, tobacco, powder,
shot, and light flint-lock muskets, if they can get them. Although the
ammunition and muskets are a prohibited trade in this Territory, still the
Indians get them from the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Simpson. Steel
traps, knives, hatchets, needles and thread, and little cheap jewelry, form
their principal trade, for which they get in exchange, marten, mink, silver,
cross and red fox, black, brown, and grizzly bear, lynx, wolverine, ermine,
beaver, land otter, and some inferior skins. The price they give may be
represented thus: Marten, 50 cents; mink 25 cents; lynx, 20 cents; bear, black,
50 cents to $1.50; bear, grizzly, 50 to $1.50; bear, brown, 50 cents; beaver, 20
cents to 40 cents; land otter, 50 cents.
These they exchange with the trader at an advance of from two
hundred to four hundred per cent, for such articles as they require. The
traders' tariff may be quoted: For prints and sheeting, 25 cents per yard;
tobacco, $1.50 per pound; molasses, $1 per gallon; powder, $1.50 per pound;
shot, 50 cents per pound; blankets, *assorted,) $3 to $6. Steel traps,
knives, vermillion, flour, hard bread, beans, rice, and some few articles in the
way of clothing, pants, shirts, (cotton and woolen,) blue cloth caps with glazed
covers, shoes, and some minor articles.
The trading price for skins are: Marten, $2 to $3; mink, 25
cents to $1; bear, black, $1.50 to $3.50; bear, grizzly, $1 to $3.10; bear,
brown, 50 cents to $2.50; fox, silver, $4; fox, cross, $1.50 to $2; fox, red, 75
cents to $1; beaver, 80 cents to $1 per pound; land otter, $1.50 to $2; hair
seal, 8 cents to 10 cents; deer-skins, 15 cents to 20 cents.
The above may answer for the Indians from Chilkaht to Portland
Inlet. Of the Takoos, the same may be said of the Chilkahts and tribes
above Stephen's Passage.
On the east of Admiralty Island are the Koot-se-noos. They
have but few furs, but collect considerable hair seal and deer-skins. They
also raise quantities of potatoes of good quality and fair size.
Coming east through Pearl Straits to Sitka are the tribe of that
name. They are employed in trading with other tribes, hunting, and
fishing, and are employed as porters and laborers about the town of Sitka.
They also cut nearly all the cord-wood that is used by the citizens. They
may be considered very useful adjuncts of the town citizens, as they are the
chief purveyors, supplying them with all kinds of fish and game, such as ducks,
geese, venison, grouse, &c.
Going south around Baranof Island, and up through a portion of
Chatham Straits, we come to the Rat tribe on Kyro and Kespriano Islands.
They catch some furs, such as lynx, bear, and hair seal, 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 from small crafts that load or are owned by
Passing east and south through Frederick's Sound, we come to
Wrangel Island and the mouth of the Stikine River, where are the villages of the
Stikine tribe. They were some years ago a numerous tribe, but liquor and
its concomitant vices materially lessened their numbers. They collect
considerable marten, mink, bear, and lynx. They have formerly carried on
considerable trade with the interior tribes, but since the discovery of gold in
1852, the competition of the whites has lessened their trade.
The furs that are collected in this section are principally
disposed of at Fort Wrangel.
To the west and south of Prince of Wales Island is an off-shoot
of the Hydah or Queen Charlotte Island Indians. They number some three
hundred and are called Au-e-ga. They, it may be said, are the only Indians
from Behring Bay to Portland Inlet that speak a different language from the
rest. They raise considerable quantities of potatoes, trap mink, bear, and
beaver. They also go up the Naas River in March for the collection of the
hoolicon or candle-fish oil, which, when pressed, is as well flavored as leaf
In Clarence Straits and adjacent islands they are the connecting
link between the Kolosh race and Simpsians on the British side. They speak
the Kolosh, Simpsian, and Hydah tongue. They catch considerable mink,
bear, beaver, wolverine, and some sea otter. The An-e-gas collect large
quantities of candle-fish oil or grease. It is put up in tight cedar
boxes, from fifty to eighty pounds, and taken north as far as Chilkaht and
brings good prices in furs.
The Indians from Puget Sound to the northwest catch and dry
large quantities of salmon; the further north the better the salmon.
In Cook Inlet the salmon commence running in June and
deteriorate in quality as they go south. July and August are the months
about the latitude of Sitka, and gradually later as they go south, so that at
Puget Sound in September and October they are the most plentiful, and not as
Take the Indians of the coast of the Territory they are as well
supplied with the necessaries of life as the aborigines of any country in the
world. The forests are filled with game, the waters with fish, and the
beach and rocks with clams and muscles. They are a healthy and vigorous
race; both mean and women can back very heavy loads. The mean and women
are more on an equality than the Indians of Puget Sound and east of the Cascade
Range. They are steady and good workers for a short time--say one
month--when they like to know off for about the same time. The writer
thinks that it would be an impossibility to turn the Indian from his vagabond
life. The change to order, with laws and schools, might last for a short
time, but the novelty would wear off, and they would fall back into their old
ways. They soon pick up the vices, with none of the virtues, of the
whites. It is the opinion of the writer that it would take a generation to
shape them into useful citizens, although a partial success has been obtained by
Mr. Duncan a short distance below Fort Simpson with the Chimpsians, and still
them fall off.
The writer is not at all prejudiced against the Indians.
Wherever he has come in contact with them, which has been much in the last
sixteen years, he has endeavored to show them the bad policy of their predatory
ways; show them advantages which can accrue by industry, that this may act as a
Hon. VINCENT COLYER.
Special United States Indian Commissioner.
Medical Director Bailey on intemperance and debauchery.
Sitka, Alaska Territory, October 25, 1869
MY DEAR SIR: I inclose [sic] for your information the
report of Acting Assistant Surgeon John A. Tonner, United States Army, in
medical charge of the Indians in this vicinity.
This report is instructive and contains important suggestions
which, if carried out, would go far toward improving their condition.
I am satisfied that little or nothing can be done until they are
placed under better and more favorable influences. A greater mistake could
not have been committed than stationing troops in their midst. They
mutually debauch each other, and sink into that degree of degradation in which
it is impossible to reach each other through more or religious influences.
Whisky has been sold in the streets by government officials at
public auctions, and examples of drunkenness are set before them almost daily,
so that in fact the principal teaching they at present are receiving is that
drunkenness and debauchery are held by us, not as criminal and unbecoming a
Christian people, but as indications of our advanced and superior civilization.
These Indians are a civil and well-behaved people; they do not
want bayonets to keep them in subjection, but they do want honest, faithful, and
Christian workers among them; those that will care for them, teach and instruct
them in useful arts, and that they are responsible beings. I look upon the
different military posts in this department as disastrous and destructive to
their well-being; they are not, and can never be, of the least possible use;
they are only so many whisky fonts, from whence it is spread over the country.
If we ever have trouble with them and become involved in war, it will be found
to arise from these causes. From the nature and character of the country,
posts never can render the least influence or afford protection against
contraband trade; this can only be done by armed vessels, in command of choice
men. To go into detail on all points would require pages; you have seen
enough to satisfy yourself; and in giving you the inclosed [sic] report I only
want to add my testimony against what I conceive to be a most grievous error in
the management of the Indian affairs in this Territory.
When you go home send us honest, faithful, Christian workers;
not place-seekers, but those who want to do good work for Christ's sake and
kingdom. Send men and women, for both are wanted.
When you can do away with the evils spoken of, and which are so
evident, and adopt this latter course, then there will be hope, and not until
Sincerely your friend,
E. J. BAILEY
Surgeon U.S.A., Medical Director Department of Alaska.
Hon. VINCENT COLYER
Letter from Captain Edward G. Fast (late of the United States
Army,) on the character of the Koloshan Indians.
Washington, D. C. March 15, 1870.
DEAR SIR: In response to your letter of the 14th instant,
in which you request my opinion as to the general character of the Koloshans,
particularly whether any trouble with them may be apprehended by the United
States troops or traders, if they are treated with ordinary fairness, I have the
honor to state:
As to the original character of the Koloshans I can only
corroborate the graphic description of the Hon. Charles Sumner, in his speech on
the cession of Russian America to the United States. It is doubtless
familiar to you, and therefore I refrain from going into particulars. But
on the other hand, the influences of their intercourse with the white man has
effected so great a change in their original character that I must necessarily
refer to it.
Thrown together with the whites for more than eighty years, the
Koloshans, like the aborigines in the western plains, have willingly adopted the
view of the white man and sacrificed many a virtue of their own. Their
intercourse with the Russians was of very extraordinary character. They
were never conquered by the Russians; and in all the inimical encounters they
had with them they were either victors in fact, or in a measure reaped the
fruits of a victory by receiving donations of blankets and other necessaries of
life, to effect a reconciliation. So they not only remained entire
independent, but were brought to the belief that the Russians feared them.
To this inconsistent policy of the Russians we have to ascribe, that when the
American government took possession of the country, we were looked upon with
distrust and even suspicion. The Koloshans expected at least the same
consideration as they had enjoyed with the Russians. In that they found
themselves deceived. But more, they found that they were deprived of
sundry luxuries with which they had been freely provided by the Russians; a loss
the more keenly felt as they observed the unlicensed indulgence of the Americans
in the very articles withheld from them. In this respect I must
principally refer to the use of liquor which had become a second nature with
One of the first very necessary actions of the new government
was the prohibition of liquor to the Koloshans, but which was enforced in a
manner exceedingly humiliating to them, and only by cunning artifices and
extravagant offerings they were able to procure the much-desired whisky from the
Americans. Yet they had daily before them the revolting spectacle of
drunkenness and dissipation publicly and shamelessly presented by the Americans,
and even by such, from whose official standing they naturally supposed the
original and enforcement of the restrictions imposed. Who will condemn
them, when they, having such examples before their eyes, were filled with deadly
hatred and contempt for the Americans, who, not unfrequently, [sic] in their
drunken recklessness, heaped all sorts of insults upon them; and who can wonder
that these people, injured thus in their innermost feelings, were led to deeds
of violence which found so bloody and summary retribution?
From my personal experience, I know that these people can be
managed by fair and just dealing. I might compare them to a stubborn and
wayward boy, led astray by evil example; he can only be managed by persevering
kindness, but he must know, nevertheless, that there is the will and strength to
punish insolent defiance. The Koloshans must learn that we do not fear
them, and then they will respect us; they must be made conscious that we do not
misuse them, then they will have no opportunity to misinterpret our doings.
Distrust is a leading trait in their character, and selfishness the motive of
their actions. Let us be just to them, and their mistrust will vanish, and
their selfishness no longer find an ailment. In the quiet possession, and
serious quarrel with the Kooshans. Such a quarrel has already begun, and
in view of their martial spirit, of their vindictive disposition, and
persevering energy, will have no other termination that their complete
extinction, should we not assume a policy entirely different from that hitherto
exercised toward them.
The relics I found among the Koloshans give proof of a
comparatively high civilization, and admirable skill and steadiness. By
their intercourse with the white man, now they are victims of rum and whisky;
laziness and indolence have supplanted the virtues of their forefathers.
The Koloshans differ very much, by many distinct peculiarities,
from the aborigines in the western plains, and possess qualities facilitating an
earnest and systematic effort for their civilization.
As I have already advocated, on another occasion, our true
policy should be to bestow upon them the blessing of civilization, and to
promote their material welfare by a peaceful and benevolent management, not only
for the sake of Christian philanthropy, but also for our own material interest,
in order that at least their preservation and if possible, their numerical
increase, may be secured.
The influence of the climate, and the peculiarity of the soil of
Southeastern Alaska, are, with few exceptions, opposed to the introduction of
agriculture, the main foundation of a new colony. All necessaries of life,
which agriculture produces, have to be imported from Victoria, or from American
ports, and as there are but few points on this extensive coast which enjoy a
direct communication with these parts, and, as it happens not unfrequently,
[sic] particularly in winter time, that several months pass before a new supply
can be had, what would become of the settler if the friendly natives did not
furnish him with game, which only they know where and how to find? And, again,
without his assistance, the capture of fur animals would amount to very little
and its cost would be so large that furs from Alaska could hardly be considered
as n article of commerce. In one word, Alaska, without her natives, is
May these suggestions, based upon incontestable facts, and made
in good faith in the sincerity of our government, contribute to the adoption of
a policy that will be to the benefit of these people, ourselves, and the great
cause of humanity and civilization.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
EDWARD G. FAST,
Late Captain United States Army.
Hon. VINCENT COLYER,
Secretary Board of Indian Commissioners.