Excerpts from Our Northern
Domain: Alaska Picturesque, Historic, and Commercial
Dana Estes & Company: Boston, 1910
Photographs from Our Northern Domain
Chapter II: The Discovery of Alaska
Chapter IV: The Founding of Sitka
Chapter VII: The Magic Wand of Gold
Chapter XII: Juneau and Skaguay
Chapter XIII: The Mighty Yukon
Chapter XIV: Reindeer and Eskimos
CHAPTER II: THE DISCOVERY OF ALASKA
Two causes led to the discovery of the region now called Alaska; the first was the search for the Northwest passage, the second was the quest of fur-bearing animals. As early as 1648, the Russian Cossack navigator, Semyon Deshnef, hearing that a tribe far to the eastward on the Polar Ocean had plenty of ivory, sailed along the northern coast of Siberia, rounded Asia, and reached the Chukchi peninsula by the body of water now called Bering Strait. He was the first to discover the walrus in these waters. The first authentic mention of the American Continent was made by Peter I. Popof, who, in 1711, learned from the wild Chukchi Indians that beyond the islands off Siberia lay a great land with broad rivers and inhabited by people who had tusks growing out of their cheeks, and tails like dogs. This evidently referred to the labrets worn in the face, and the wolf or dog tails attached to their parkas behind.
The Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, interested in everything that concerned science and discovery, shortly before his death in 1725, wrote out instructions for his Chief Admiral, Count Feodor Apraksin, to cause to be built at Kamchatka, or some other convenient place, one or more decked vessels to explore the northerly coasts and endeavor to discover whether they were contiguous with America, submitting exact notes of whatever discoveries they should make. Vitus Bering, a Dane, who had shown capacity in the wars with Sweden, was appointed to take charge of the expedition. After extreme hardships in crossing Siberia by land, he and his followers reached Kamchatka, and in boats there launched they sailed along the eastern coast of the peninsula, and in 1728 discovered and named St. Lawrence Island. They passed through Bering Strait and proved that America and Asia were separate countries.
The discovery of Alaska by an adventurer named Gvosdef, in 1731, stimulated to further explorations, and in 1733, Bering, under the patronage of the Empress Anna Ivanovna, the niece of Peter the Great, was once more commissioned to take charge of an expedition from Kamchatka. There were long and annoying delays, but at last, in September, 1740, Bering, in the ship "St. Peter," accompanied by the "St. Paul " under command of Lieutenant Chirikof, who had been with him in the first voyage, set sail. They were soon beset by winter, and established themselves at Avatcha, where they built a few houses and a church, naming the settlement after the two ships, Petropavlovsk. Early in the following June, they once more weighed anchor, but on the twentieth a gale separated the two ships. Chirikof's went to the eastward, and on the fifteenth of July sighted land. He sent ten men ashore, under command of Abraham Mikhailovich Dementief, a young nobleman, who, having been disappointed in love, had volunteered for this dangerous service. After they had been absent for five days, another boat was despatched [sic] with six men to look for the first party. Those left on the ship soon observed a black smoke rising above the point of land behind which the boats had disembarked.
The next morning, the anxious company on board were gladdened by the sight of what they thought were the two boats approaching. Their joy was turned to horror when it was seen that the two boats were filled with savages. These turned about at the sight of the ship, and shouting "Agai! Agai!" made for the shore. A gale blew up, and Chirikof was obliged to put out into the open sea. When the storm had subsided, he returned to his former anchorage, but had no means of reaching land. The fate of the missing men was never determined but it can be easily surmised. Chirikof, crippled as he was, was compelled to return to Kamchatka. His men suffered terrible hardships; their provisions and water were exhausted, all on board were ill with scurvy, and they lost altogether twenty-one men.
Bering, on the sixteenth of July, caught sight of the magnificent snow-clad mountain range, of which St. Elias, rising to a height of 18,000 feet above the sea, is the crown. George Wilhelm Steller, a German naturalist, who accompanied the expedition and left an excellent account of what he saw, claimed to have discovered land on the day preceding, but his claim was ridiculed by his companions. A landing was made on what is now known as Kayak Island. After delaying several days, and finding a number of unoccupied huts built of logs and bark and thatched with coarse grasses, together with dried salmon, copper implements, and other indications of former occupancy, Bering, without attempting to proceed farther, turned about. On his voyage back, he discovered and named a number of the Aleutian Islands, where they found friendly natives, with whom they exchanged gifts. The name Aleutian is supposed to have been suggested by Cape Alintorsky in Siberia, which, according to native tradition, was continued into a chain of islands stretching away toward the east. The ships were buffeted by terrific tempests, and so many of the crew perished of illness and deprivations that the survivors had difficulty in navigating their ships back to the Asiatic coast. There they had the misfortune to be wrecked on a small island, which now bears the name of their famous commander. Here, on the eighth of December, in a hut so exposed to the elements that it hardly deserved to be called a shelter, Bering died of scurvy, after suffering unutterable agonies. His companions, after spending the winter in holes dug in the sand dunes and roofed with canvas, their only food sea-otters and seals, constructed a boat from the wreck of the "St. Peter," and managed to reach the mainland.
The result of the discoveries of Bering and Chirikof was that many expeditions were fitted out for fishing and hunting along the American coast. These traders were called "promui'shleniki," the word signifying traders or adventurers. They pushed farther and farther eastward. Such were Emelian Basof, who made four consecutive voyages; one of Bering's companions named Nevodchikof; and Aleksei Belaief, who, in 1745, inveigled fifteen of the gentle Aleuts into a quarrel for the express purpose of killing them, maltreating their wives, and robbing them of their furs. Similar outrages were perpetrated by many others of these irresponsible and brutal adventurers. In 1759, a promui'shleniki named Glottof discovered the large island of Umnak, and subsequently skirted the extensive group of islands including Unalaska. On account of the foxes abounding there, he called this archipelago, the Fox Islands. Glottof is reputed to have been the first to baptize the natives; he also furnished his government with the first Russian map of that region. Glottof reached the island of Kadiak in the autumn of 1762, and took up his quarters there for the winter. The natives, who had at first been very gentle and patient under the outrageous demands of the traders, had begun to rebel. They attacked Glottof's settlement, but were repulsed by the Russians; after that they kept aloof and refused to trade. Later in the winter, discovering that the invaders were weakened by disease, they renewed their attacks and almost exterminated them. Glottof escaped only with the greatest difficulty. The same year, a merchant, Druzhinin, arrived at Unalaska, with one hundred and fifty men, and was attacked by the natives, who, at a signal, arose and killed all of his followers but four, who happened to be absent, and were protected by a kindly Aleut.
The treatment of the natives by the adventurers hardly corresponded to the wishes of the Empress Catharine II., who, in expressing her satisfaction at the reported subjection of the six new Aleutian Islands by the Cossack Vasiutin and his followers, said in her ukase to the Governor of Siberia: "You must urge the promui'shleniki to treat the natives with kindness, and to avoid all oppression or ill treatment of their new brethren." She also urged the governor to glean all possible information regarding the country. In response to this wish, the Admiralty College selected two captains, Krenitsin and Levashef, who sailed from Kamchatka in 1768, and attempted to make explorations and gather scientific details about the land and the people. But they had difficulty with the savages, and, after losing a third of their forces through scurvy and the arrows of their enemies, they returned to Siberia. The profits of the trading and hunting expeditions were very great, and there are records of more than sixty such enterprises. The profits were generally divided equally between the owners of the vessels and the crews; each sailor had one share, and the navigator and commanders had two each. A tenth of the whole was exacted as a tax by the government.
The natives who fell into the hands of their oppressors were compelled to do the hunting and to turn over their booty, receiving as a reward a few cheap trinkets, or a bit of tobacco. They thus became practically slaves. The horrors of their condition form the dark background of Alaskan history. The story of the revenge wreaked by the cruel Soloviof for the slaughter of such Russians as were killed by the natives, when they at last were goaded into rebellion, is only one chapter of this tale of violence.
CHAPTER IV: THE FOUNDING OF SITKA
Baranof was still engaged in extending the enterprises of the Company. In the year of the charter, he embarked on the brig "Catharine," and convoyed by a feet of Innuit bidarkas, sailed to the region of Sitka, which had already been explored by Captain Shields. Sitka, which is situated about a hundred miles south of the latitude of Petersburg, seemed to him a suitable place for a permanent settlement, because thither came many ships with which he could trade and thereby secure supplies. About six miles from the present town of Sitka, he began to build a fortified trading-post, with log-houses all surrounded by a high stockade. While his men were busy with this work, a number of American trading-ships came into port, and, under Baranof's very eyes, began to swap firearms with the natives in exchange for sea-otter skins. They paid no heed to Baranof's protests, and he was obliged to content himself with forwarding despatches [sic] to the administrative council of the Company, asking the Government to put a stop to such outrages.
As soon as the American vessels had sailed, Baranof returned to Kadiak, where he found affairs in a state of demoralization: disputes had arisen between the officers of the Company and the clergy; discipline had been thoroughly relaxed, and a party of the ringleaders were engaged in fitting out one of the Company's vessels for an independent cruise. Baranof immediately restored order from chaos, punishing the chief culprits severely. A scoundrel named Larionof tried to assassinate Baranof, who, however, was too quick for him: he seized the man's hand, took away his weapon, and strangled him to death.
During Baranof's absence from Sitka, a tragic event befell. Although the site for the stronghold had been acquired by barter from the chief of the savage Koloshi, who dwelt in that region, and although they pretended to be friendly, they harbored hostile feelings against the settlers, and were on the lookout for an opportunity to exterminate them. One June holiday, when it was known that a large part of the garrison were out hunting and fishing, a band of several thousand armed Koloshi, assisted by allied tribes of Thlinkits, made a simultaneous assault on the garrison. The commander, Vasili Medviednikof, and the rest of the inmates were slain at once; more than three thousand sea-otter skins and other property of the Company were taken from the warehouse and carried to the canoes which had brought a large number of the savages; the other houses were also looted and then set on fire. Three Russians and five Aleuts managed to escape. One of the survivors, who happened at the time to be out watching the cattle, afterwards described the massacre. Having secured his gun, and bidden a girl employed in the yard to flee for her life, he went and hid in the thick underbrush, though not without an encounter with four Koloshi, who wrested his gun from him but did not kill him. From the edge of the woods, he could see the savages swarming over the barracks and carrying off their loot. He witnessed the rapid spread of the fire that destroyed all the buildings.
He says: "I threw myself down among the underbrush on the edge of the forest, covering myself with pieces of bark. From there I saw Nakvassin drop from the upper balcony and run toward the forest; but when nearly across the open space he fell to the ground, and four warriors rushed up and carried him back to the barracks on the points of their lances and cut off his head. Kabanof was dragged from the barracks into the street, where the Koloshi pierced him with their lances; but how the other Russians who were there came to their end, I do not know. The slaughter and burning was continued by the savages until evening, but finally I stole out among the ruins and ashes, and in my wanderings came across some of our cows, and saw that even the poor dumb animals had not escaped the bloodthirsty fiends, but had spears stuck in their sides. Exercising all my strength, I was barely able to pull out some of the spears, when I was observed by two Koloshi and compelled to leave the cows to their fate, and hide again in the woods.
"I passed the night not far from the ruins of the fort. In the morning I heard the report of a cannon, and looked out of the brush but could see no one, and not wishing to expose myself again to further danger, went higher up into the mountain through the forest. While advancing cautiously through the woods, I met two other persons who were in the same plight as myselfa girl from the Chiniatz village, Kodiak, with an infant at her breast, and a man from the Kiliuda village, who had been left behind by the hunting party on account of sickness. I took them both with me to the mountain, but each night I went with my companions to the ruins of the fort and bewailed the fate of the slain. In this miserable condition we remained for a week, with nothing to eat and nothing but water to drink. About noon of the last day, we heard from the mountain two cannon-shots, which raised some hopes in me, and I bade my companions to follow me at a little distance, and then went down toward the river, through the woods, to hide myself near the shore, and see whether there was a ship in the bay."
This proved to be an English vessel under the command of Captain Barber, who heard the man's shouts and sent a boat to take him aboard. His shouts were heard also by half a dozen of the Koloshi, who almost captured him. When taken on board the vessel, he told the story of the massacre; and a boat with a load of armed men was sent to rescue the other survivors. They reconnoitered the ruins of the fort and buried the dead, all of whom they found beheaded, with one exception.
The captain inveigled the "toyon," or native chief, Mikhail, and his nephew on board. He feasted them until they became intoxicated, and then ordered them put in irons, keeping them confined until they agreed to return all the prisoners taken. These included eighteen women, who had been seized as they were washing clothes at the river. The ransom also included a payment of two thousand sea-otter skins. Having succeeded in this "coup de main," Captain Barber set sail for Kadiak, where he demanded of Baranof a sum of fifty thousand rubles for his services in rescuing the men and women. Baranof refused to accede to these exorbitant terms, and finally settled with a load of furs valued at a fifth of that amount.
This disaster at Sitka was followed by many others, fulfilling the old proverb that misfortunes never come singly. One hundred and eighty Aleut hunters were surprised and massacred in the same vicinity. Another party of about one hundred perished by eating poisonous mussels; this tragedy giving the name of "Pagubleniye Prolif," or "Destruction Strait" sometimes miscalled "Peril Strait" to the body of water between Baranof and Chichagof Islands, where the disaster occurred. Three ships loaded with provisions and stores were wrecked on their way to Kadiak, and the employees of the Company were saved from starvation only by the arrival of a vessel from New York, the cargo of which consisted chiefly of provisions. Baranof was glad to purchase them for twelve thousand rubles.
A hunting-party of three hundred boats, under command of his subordinate, Kuskof, reported engagements with considerable bodies of warlike natives, but he had routed them with large losses. Kuskof, as soon as he heard of the Sitka massacre, was eager to go and punish the Koloshi, but Baranof did not think his circumstances at the time justified such an expedition. Meantime, despatches [sic] brought from the wrecked ships informed him of the accession of Alexander I. The commandant at Okhotsk ordered him to assemble all the inhabitants of Kadiak and the surrounding countries, and require from them the oath of allegiance. Baranof, unwilling that the crippled condition of his forces should be detected, ignored the command. This disobedience was reported to Irkutsk by a subordinate named Talin, who had been dismissed from the navy for bad conduct. When the report was brought to the notice of the Senate at Petersburg, it was decided that Baranof was not subject to orders from the local commander at Okhotsk. Talin was dismissed from the service, but during the two years that it took to carry the information to Alaska, Talin was able to do much mischief and cause great annoyance.
Before the consolidation of the trading companies, permission had been refused regular naval officers, on leave of absence, to command Shelikhof's ships; consequently, the Company had been obliged to depend on any chance navigator or "morekhodets" that offered his services. Many of them were utterly incompetent. Ivan Petrof, commenting on this state of things, says: "This title was applied to anybody who had made a sea voyage, no matter in what capacity; but they were generally hunters or trappers from Siberia, who had some slight experience in flat-boat navigation on the rivers. They were entirely ignorant of nautical science and unacquainted with the use of instruments, relying altogether upon landmarks to make their way from Asia to America.
"The most extraordinary instances of stupidity in managing their vessels are related of some of these so-called navigators. Once out of sight of land they were lost, and compelled to trust to chance in hitting upon the right direction to make the land again. It was the practice to coast along the Kamchatka shore until nearly opposite the Commander Islands, and to wait for some clear day when the latter could be sighted; then the crossing was made; and, satisfied with such a brilliant result, the skipper would beach his craft for the remainder of the season, and pass the winter in killing fur-seals and sea-cows, and salting down the meat for his further voyage.
"Late in the following spring, rarely before the month of June, the vessel was launched again and headed, at a venture, to the nearest islands of the Aleutian chain. If the captain succeeded in finding the land, he would proceed along the chain of islands, keeping a short distance to the northward, careful never to lose sight of the mountain peaks. As the trapper captain, with his crew of landsmen, knew nothing of keeping his craft up to the wind, no progress was made unless the wind was absolutely favorable, and thus another season would pass before Atka or Unalaska Island was reached, where the craft was hauled up again for the winter. A term of seven years was frequently consumed in making the round trip to the American coast and back again to Kamchatka or Okhotsk, a voyage that at the present time a schooner can accomplish in about three weeks. At least seventy-five per cent of all the vessels that sailed upon these voyages, from the discovery of the American coast to the beginning of this century, suffered wreck, and every one of these disasters could be traced to the ignorance both of captains and sailors."
Beginning with 1801, capable officers were permitted to enlist in the service of the Company, and a vast improvement was initiated. The first of these officers were Lieutenants Khvostof and Davidof. They navigated an old, leaky vessel, with a crew of landlubbers, from Okhotsk to Kadiak in two months. The following year, the Company obtained permission to forward supply ships direct from Petersburg to the colonies. Two ships, of not far from five hundred tons capacity, were purchased in London, and, under the names of the "Nieva" and "Nadyezhda" (Hope), commanded respectively by Captain Lisyansky and Captain Count von Krusenstern, set sail for Alaskan waters. The "Nieva" arrived at Kadiak early in July, 1804, after a voyage lasting nearly a year. Learning that Baranof was on his way to Sitka, with the design of punishing the natives for their treachery, he resolved to join him there and assist in the revenge.
Baranof, however, had been delayed at Yakutat, where he had to finish the equipment of two small vessels. When he reached Sitka, with his little force of forty ]Russians and a few hundred Aleuts, with which to engage in battle with as many thousands of the warlike Koloshi, his feelings may be easily imagined when he discovered Lisyansky's ship riding at anchor in the beautiful roadstead.
The natives doughtily refused his demand for the restitution of the furs looted from his warehouse, and for hostages for future good conduct. The first attack of the Russians was made against a fort built on the wooded height which overlooks Sitka. Lisyansky describes it as "an irregular polygon, its longest side facing the sea. It was protected by a breastwork two logs in thickness and about six feet high. Around and above it, tangled brushwood was piled. Grape-shot did little damage, even at the distance of a cable's length. There were two embrasures for cannon in the side facing the sea, and two gates facing the forest. Within were fourteen large huts, or, as they were called then and are called at the present time by the natives, 'barabaras.' Judging from the quantity of provisions and domestic implements found there, it must have contained at least eight hundred warriors."
The first attack made by the Russians was repulsed. Baranof himself was wounded, and eleven of his men were killed; but as the ships covered his retreat, he managed to save his cannon. The following day, Lisyansky took command; the ships approached the shore and bombarded the hostile fort. An envoy asking peace arrived. The evacuation of the fort was demanded. It being delayed, bombardment was renewed. In the night, after bewailing their fate, and killing their children and dogs, the natives deserted their stronghold, leaving the bodies of their dead.
The Koloshi having beaten a retreat to Chatham Strait, Baranof was free to establish himself at Sitka, where, with Lisyansky's assistance, he built the great castle that was, for so many years to come, to be the seat of colossal revels, unbridled luxury, and boundless hospitality. When it was destroyed by fire, another still finer took its place; that again was wrecked by an earthquake, and also destroyed by fire. Around the castle a village grouped itself. The officials were housed in huge barracks, solidly built; some of them covering more than ten thousand square feet, and several stories in height. The rooms were papered, the floors were polished and covered with imported rugs, and heavy furniture brought from Petersburg gave an air of luxury to these quarters. Baranof himself was never more pleased than when congenial visitors arrived on some friendly ship. He had a system of signal lights flashing from the cupola of his castle, and beacon-fires were kindled along the shore, to pilot the way by night. A great banquet would test the capacities of the guests, especially in standing up against vast bumpers of fiery vodka and costly wines. The plate and glassware were of the richest description. Baranof had a fine library, and his walls were hung with valuable paintings.
For a time he was obliged to submit to many humiliations at the hands of supercilious naval officers, who looked down upon him as being of inferior rank. But, in recognition of his wonderful success in conducting the affairs of the Company, the Emperor, at Riazanof's suggestion, conferred upon him the title of Commercial Councillor, and the Order of St. Anne of the third class. When this honor came, he is said to have burst into tears and exclaimed: "I am a nobleman! I am the equal in position and the superior in ability of those insolent naval officers." Nevertheless, as long as he lived, he was having continual difficulties with the Government officers, who would dispute his authority and try to undermine his power.
Shelikhof's son-in-law, Riazanof, had been a passenger on the "Nadyezhda," but had proceeded directly to Japan, where he was accredited as Ambassador to the Emperor. His mission there proved a failure, and he next devoted himself to regulating the affairs of the Company in which he had so commanding an interest. He was the first to put an end to the indiscriminate slaughter of the seals on the Pribilof Islands. It is said that two millions were taken the first year, and the price of seal skins fell to panic rates. In order to make arrangements for the regular purchase of provisions, he bought a Boston ship and proceeded to San Francisco Bay, which was then in the hands of the Spanish. It was contrary to their instructions to hold intercourse with foreign ships, but he overcame the scruples of the Commandant, whose daughter he would have married, had he not died before he obtained permission from the Russian Emperor.
Riazanof, by this visit, inaugurated trade-relations between Spain and the Russian colonies. He foresaw the possibilities of the Pacific coast, and proposed the planting of Russian colonists on New Albion, as the region north of the San Francisco presidio was called. Realizing how unfitted the Russians themselves were for agricultural pursuits, he suggested that "the patient and industrious Chinese " should be brought over to man the plantations. This was in 1806.
Five years later, Baranof carried out Riazanof's directions and sent his chief subordinate, Kuskof, to establish himself on the California coast. He bought a tract of land of the Indians at Bodega, not far north of San Francisco Bay. This whole coast as far as Kadiak was now furnishing its tribute of furs to the Russian-American Company. Baranof engaged "Yankee" captains to hunt the sea-otter and other fur-bearing animals on shares. It is said that during one single year the Company's share in the profits made by these partnership expeditions amounted to several hundred thousand rubles. Occasionally, the Yankee skippers played sharp tricks on the Company. Petrof tells of a Captain Bennett who exchanged his cargo of provisions for seal skins on the basis of a dollar apiece in trade, and then resold the skins to the Company's agent at Petropavlovsk for double that sum.
When the Directors of the Company heard of this and similar transactions, Baranof was ordered to change his policy. About the same time, Lazaref was despatched [sic] from Petersburg on the ship "Suvorof." He reached Sitka after a voyage which lasted thirteen months. Here a bitter controversy arose between Baranof and Lazaref, each claiming supreme rank. Finally Lazaref refused to carry out Baranof's instructions and set sail, followed by the old commander's anathemas and ineffectual cannon shots from the fortress. Lazaref had loaded the "Suvorof" with furs and other commodities taken in trade along the Pacific coast, and he brought back to Petersburg a cargo valued at more than a million rubles. Of course, he showed his animosity against Baranof by retailing all the evil stories that he had heard about his behavior and his untrustworthiness. Accordingly, it was decided to appoint a successor to the commander.
There had been other attempts to get rid of him. Two prospective successors had died before reaching Sitka. In 1809, two promuishleniki had entered into a conspiracy to kill him. The attempt failed, but the anxiety which it caused Baranof, in addition to his increasing disabilities, had unquestionably unstrung his mind, so long keen and alert.
Washington Irving in his "Astoria" called "Count Baranhoff" "a rough, rugged, hospitable, hard-working old Russian. Somewhat of a soldier, somewhat of a trader; above all a boon companion of the old roystering school, with a strong cross of the brave."
He goes on to say: "Mr. Hunt found this hyperborean veteran ensconced in a fort which crested the whole of a high rocky promontory. It mounted one hundred guns, large and small, and was impregnable to Indian attack, unaided by artillery. Here the old governor lorded it over sixty Russians, who formed the corps of the trading establishment, besides an indefinite number of Indian hunters of the Kodiak tribe, who were continually coming and going, or lounging and loitering about the fort like so many hounds round a sportsman's hunting quarters. Though a loose liver among his guests, the governor was a strict disciplinarian among his men, keeping them in perfect subjection, and having seven on guard, night and day. Besides these immediate serfs and dependents just mentioned, the old Russian potentate exerted a considerable sway over a numerous and irregular class of maritime traders, who looked to him for aid and munitions, and through whom he may be said to have, in some degree, extended his power along the whole northwest coast. . . .
"Over these coasting captains, as we have hinted, the veteran governor exerted some sort of sway; but it was of a peculiar and characteristic kind: it was the tyranny of the table. They were obliged to join him in his 'prosnics' or carousels, and to drink 'potations pottle deep.' His carousels, too, were not of the most quiet kind, nor were his potations as mild as nectar. 'He is continually,' said Mr. Hunt, 'giving entertainments by way of parade, and if you do not drink raw rum and boiling punch as strong as sulphur, he will insult you as soon as he gets drunk, which is very shortly after setting down to table.' "
Father Juvenal, the weak young priest who was murdered by the Indians of Ilyamna, gives in his diary far from flattering pictures of Baranof, whether in Church giving the responses, singing in his hoarse voice, or shouting obscene songs in the midst of a drunken carousal, with a woman seated on his lap.
In 1817, Captain Hagenmeister was sent out in the ship "Suvorof" to supplant him. At first he did not disclose the real object of his visit; but on January 11th, 1818, he abruptly produced his commission and claimed the command. When he returned to Russia, he left Lieutenant Yanovsky as his representative. The fact that Yanovsky had married Baranof's favorite daughter, the child of a native woman, did not seem to lessen the severity of the blow. He rose from a bed of illness, arranged his papers, and turned over to the new manager property far exceeding in value what the Company had expected. He had enjoyed unlimited opportunities to enrich himself, but whatever faults he had, dishonesty was not one of them.
During the first hours of his downfall, Baranof walked alone to his favorite retreat a gray flat stone standing not far from the castle, with a wonderfully beautiful view of the island-studded bay and there where he was secure from interruption, not even his favorite daughter daring to approach him while he was indulging in this silent self-communion, he prepared himself for the inevitable.
Retaining little for himself, he determined to go back to Russia, where he had left a wife and children many years before. After bidding a tearful farewell to his old friends and associates, he sailed from Sitka on the ship "Kutuzof," late in November. At Batavia he was taken ill with malarial fever, and the day after the ship again sailed for Petersburg, on the sixteenth of April, 1819, he died and was buried in the Indian Ocean.
[excerpt from Chapter VII: The Magic Wand of Gold]
The first survey of the coast line of the Seward Peninsula was made by Captain Cook in 1778. Russians naturally first encountered this region because its westernmost point, Cape Prince of Wales, lies almost within sight of Siberia. Their first trading-post was established on St. Michael's Island in 1835, but little was done toward exploring the interior until thirty years later, when Baron von Bendeleben, in searching for a practical telegraph route, ascended the Niukluk River, crossed the portage to the Kruzgamepa and reached Port Clarence, where the whaling fleet had its summer rendezvous. According to William H. Libby, who was a member of this expedition, Baron von Bendeleben found alluvial gold on the Niukluk River, but little importance was attributed to this discovery. In 1881, John C. Green, with a party of natives, traced the source of the leaden bullets that were in use in the eastern part of the peninsula. He followed up the river that empties into Golofnin Bay, and there located the mine of Galena, and organized a company to exploit it, under the title of the Alaska Gold and Silver, Milling and Trading Company. Some ore was shipped, but the mine is said never to have paid its expenses.
An employee of the company, named Sanderson, found alluvial gold on the Niukluk in 1892; natives also had reported its presence in the Nome region. Even when the luring wealth of the Klondike gold placers drew men by the tens of thousands to the interior of Alaska, and bands of prospectors, enduring every kind of hardship, were searching all the tributaries of the mighty Yukon, the rumors of gold on the Seward Peninsula had not as yet spread beyond its confines.
Prospectors, who had failed, gradually drifted into this region. About fifteen hundred men tried their fortune in the, region of Kotzebue Sound, north of the peninsula, and failing, made their way to John Dexter's trading post on Golofnin Bay. Dexter had taught some of the natives how to wash out a pan of dirt, and an Eskimo, named Tom Guarick, while on a fishing or hunting trip, in August, 1897, brought back a half ounce of gold dust which he had found on Ophir Creek. In the following September, Daniel B. Libby, who had been a member of the Bendeleben expedition of 1866, and three other men, who had been sent by San Francisco capitalists to try their luck in "grub-staking," landed at Golofnin Bay and saw this gold. They engaged the Eskimo, Tom Guarick, as a guide, and he led them to the creek, where they found that his discovery was no dream. They, and other adventurers, spent months in prospecting, and in April of the next year called a "miners' meeting and organized the 'Discovery District,' " and elected a recorder; all in accordance with the established custom in such cases. Although the miners were ill-equipped for their work, they managed to make sluice-boxes from the spruce timber which the region provided, and these pioneers, who may have numbered two or three hundred men, took out during the first season perhaps one hundred thousand dollars' worth of the precious metal. But the news of it did not excite interest even at St. Michael's, only a hundred miles away a fact explained by Mr. Alfred H. Brooks, who was there at the time, for the two-fold reason that "the first Alaskan public had become tired of unfounded rumors of rich discoveries, and, second, the excavations on Ophir Creek had not, by any means, gone far enough to prove the great richness of its gravels."
It having been reported that a government reindeer-hunter had discovered coarse gold on the Sinuk River, which is one of the largest of the southern watersheds of the peninsula, four men started out in a small boat, and were storm-bound near what is now the town of Nome. They found specimens of fine and even coarse gold on the bar of Snake River, and on what was afterwards called Snake Creek. This did not satisfy them, and they proceeded to Sinuk, there finding nothing. So all of them returned to Golofnin Bay. J. J. Brynteson, one of the party, a native of Sweden, and an experienced coal and iron miner, who had come to Alaska to prospect for coal, was not satisfied with the hasty survey of the Snake River district, and in September, with two other men, he quietly set out for a closer investigation. His two companions were a fellow Swede, Erik 0. Lindblom, a tailor by profession, who had been lured to Kotzebue Sound by fabulous reports of gold there; and Jafet Lindeberg, a native of Norway, who had come to Alaska to help Dr. Sheldon Jackson in procuring reindeer. Lindeberg gives a simple and graphic account of the world-famous discovery which he and his two companions made:
"We three men met by chance at Council City, in August, 1898, he says in a letter to Mr. F. L. Hess of the Government Survey," and after prospecting around in that district for some time and staking claims, formed a prospecting companionship, and decided to prospect over a wider range of territory. Even at this early date, the Council City District was overrun by stampeders, and staked to the mountain tops; so we proceeded to Golofnin Bay, and taking a large open boat and an outfit of provisions, on September 11, 1898, started up the coast toward Port Clarence, stopping at the various rivers to prospect on the way, in which we found signs of gold but not in paying quantities, and finally arrived at what is now known as the town of Nome. From there we proceeded up Snake River, which we named, and camped at the mouth of Glacier Creek, prospecting as we went along. The first encouraging signs of gold we found on the banks of Snake River were at about the place where Lane's pumping plant is now located. After locating our camp as before mentioned we proceeded to prospect along the tributaries of Snake River, which tributaries we named as follows: Anvil Creek (taking the name from an anvil-shaped rock which stands on the mountain on the east side of the creek), Snow Gulch, Glacier Creek, Rock Creek, and Dry Creek, in all of which we found gold in paying quantities, and proceeded to locate claims, first on Anvil Creek, because we found better prospects in that creek than in the others, and where we located the 'discovery claim' in the: name of us three jointly. In addition to this, each man staked a separate claim in his own name on the creek. This was the universal custom in Alaska, as it was conceded that the discoverer was entitled to a discovery claim and one other. After locating on Anvil Creek, claims were staked on Snow Gulch, Dry Creek, and Rock Creek, after which we returned to Golofnin Bay and reported the discovery.
"It was then decided to form a mining district, so we three original discoverers organized a party, taking with us Dr. A.N. Kittleson, G.W. Price, P.H. Anderson, and a few others, again proceeded to Nome in a small schooner which we chartered at Golofnin Bay, purchasing as many provisions as we could carry on the boat, and on our arrival the Cape Nome mining district was organized, and Dr. A.N. Kittleson elected the first recorder. Rules were formulated, after which the party prospected and staked claims, finally returning to Golofnin Bay for winter quarters. The news spread like wildfire, and soon a wild stampede was made to the new diggings from Council City, St. Michael, and the far-off Yukon.
"At this period very few mining men were in the country, the newcomers in many instances being from every trade known. The consequence of this was soon well known; a few men with a smattering of education gave their own interpretation to the mining laws, hence jumping mining claims soon became an active industry. Especially from Council City came the jumpers, who were the original men John Dexter, by an Eskimo, had guided to the first discovery of gold on the Seward Peninsula. They were angry to think that they had not been taken in at the beginning, so a few of them promptly jumped nearly every claim on Anvil Creek, although there was an abundance of vacant and unlocated ground left which has since proved to be more valuable than the original claims located by us and our second party who helped us to form the district. This jumping, or relocating of claims by the parties above named, poisoned the minds of all the newcomers against every original locator of mining claims, and as a consequence every original claim was relocated by from one to a dozen different parties.
"At that time L.B. Shepard was United States commissioner at St. Michael, and in no case did a jumper have a chance to profit by his villainy, if Judge Shepard could prevent it. Another strong factor for good government at St. Michael and vicinity was Capt. E.S. Walker, of the United States Army. With exceptionally good judgment and a fearless attitude he held the lawless element in check, and great credit should be given him.
"In the early months of 1899 we hauled supplies to the creeks, and as soon as the thaw came began active mining on Snow Gulch and on Anvil Creek. Soon a large crowd flocked to Nome, which was then known as Anvil City. Among this crowd was a large element of lawless men who soon joined forces with the Council City jumpers, and every effort was made by them to create trouble. Secret meetings were held and a plan formulated whereby arrangements were made to call a mass meeting of miners, and at this meeting declare all the acts of the original miners' meeting that organized the district invalid, and to throw open all claims for relocation. This nefarious scheme leaked out, and word was sent to Captain Walker at St. Michael, who promptly dispatched Lieutenant Spaulding with a detachment of troops to Nome. A few days after their arrival the projected mass meeting was called. Here the agreed-on resolutions were offered, which, if passed, would have created bloody riot. Lieutenant Spaulding dispersed the meeting, receiving the thanks of the entire mass of law-abiding citizens of Nome and vicinity for this act, . . . and had it not been for the military, who proved themselves to be the true men to the American Government, much riot and bloodshed would have resulted from the conduct of the aforementioned parties."
The vanguard of prospectors, arriving too late to do any mining, spent their energies in staking claims, using a power of attorney for such friends as they could call to mind. In this way, though the mining laws prescribed the limits of claims, forty men preempted an average of nearly two hundred acres apiece. Occasionally, rich finds were made. One nugget taken out from Anvil Creek weighed one hundred and eight[y]-two ounces, and brought three thousand two hundred and eighty-five dollars.
The nearest post office was one hundred miles away, across Norton Sound, and there were no mails after the winter season began. But before the ice broke, rumor had winged its way up the Yukon to Dawson, and when June came there was a population of some four hundred, living in tents and driftwood shanties. Steamers reaching Seattle during the summer spread the news, and started a fresh stampede. The thousands who reached Nome from the States, and from the upper reaches of the Yukon, found themselves frozen out; or, so, at least, they thought; for they did not attempt to locate new placer grounds.
[excerpt from Chapter XII: Juneau and Skaguay]
The Thlinkit mythology is largely concerned with the adventures of Yeshl, who was able to fly in the skin of the long-billed kutzgatushl or crane. When his jealous uncle tried to kill him as he had killed all of his other nephews by upsetting them from a canoe, Yeshl walked along the sea-bottom and escaped. Then the wicked uncle, who seems to correspond to Saturn in Greek mythology, sent a great flood. Yeshl put on his crane skin and flew up into the skies until the flood subsided. His manner of giving mankind light is thus described:
A rich and powerful chief had the sun, moon and stars concealed in three strong boxes. He also had a daughter whom he loved and pampered but guarded with extraordinary care. Yeshl discovered that the only way to obtain possession of the treasures of light was to be born as the chief's grandson. He transformed himself into a blade of grass and when the beautiful maiden drank from her bowl he slipped down her throat, and in due time was born as a tiny infant. Her father took a great fancy to this mysterious grandson and there was nothing that he would not give to him. Once upon a time he began to cry and could not be quieted. He managed to signify that what he wanted was in the three sacred boxes. The grandfather to pacify him let him have one of them. He dragged it out of doors, opened the lid, and lo, the stars were shining in heaven! The ruse worked similarly well in regard to the moon, but when he tried to obtain the third box containing the sun the grandfather was inexorable. But when the boy refused to be comforted he let him play with it on the condition that he should not open the lid. As soon as he got it outside he transformed himself into a great raven and flew away with the box. As he flew he heard voices but could not see the people because the sun was still in the box. When at last he opened it, the inhabitants of the earth were frightened at the dazzling brilliancy and hid themselves and were changed into fishes, bears and other animals according to their hiding-place. But the Thlinkits were still without fire; it was only to be found on an island far out at sea. This Indian Prometheus flew thither, picked up a burning brand and hurried back with it; but the distance was so great that when he got back the brand was almost consumed and even his bill was scorched. Consequently he dropped the glowing coal and the sparks were scattered over the whole shore; that is why both wood and stone contain fire.
He also procured fresh water for his people from the sacred well guarded by Khenukh, the ancestor of the Wolf clan. Yeshl managed to gather up some in his bill and when he flew back wherever he dropped a drop of water spread lakes and ponds and rivers and brooks. Khenukh was represented as stronger even than Yeshl, though not so shrewd, as was proved by the larceny of the water. When he had accomplished all he felt was necessary for his people Yeshl disappeared and went to his home in the far east.
The Thlinkits have many other gods and spirits, and the phenomena of nature the Northern lights and comets and meteors have their superstitious explanations, as interpreted by the shamans. They have also a legend of the flood where a great ship stranded on a submerged log and broke in two; those remaining in one half being Thlinkit and the others drifting away becoming the people of other nations.
One of the last of the native chiefs was named Klo Kutz, a man of determined character and strong will. His people believed that he bore a charmed life. He was friendly to the new comers and when Professor George Davidson went to the head of Lynn Canal in 1869 to observe the eclipse of the sun he entertained his party and rendered him great assistance. The natives, who had not believed the professor's prediction, were terribly alarmed when it came true. They came to the conclusion that he was a wizard and ran away from him as fast as they could go. Unfortunately, contact with immoral white men and drunkenness and disease has brought about the decadence of this tribe which was recognized by early visitors as among the finest of all Indians. In less than forty years they have been reduced from thousands to hundreds. Pneumonia, the grip and measles have always been peculiarly fatal to savages.
[excerpt from Chapter XIII: The Mighty Yukon]
The third great division of the river is also called the Ramparts. Here it again contracts into a narrow swift current, in some places shooting down at an incline of more than twenty feet to the mile. The town of Rampart, founded by Captain Mayo in 1873, was formerly the headquarters of the Third Judicial District of Alaska; it has lost some of its importance but has a charm all its own. On the bluff runs the long winding street with log houses having the characteristic earth-and-flower covered roofs. It has a population of about four hundred and is the centre of trade for the Minook mining regions, which in 1906 produced three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, lying toward the south. On the other side of the river and half a mile away the Government maintains a successful agricultural station which has proved that grain can ripen there year after year, while potatoes, cabbages, peas and other vegetables thrive wonderfully. Though the winter temperature sometimes reaches seventy degrees below zero the climate is not so severe as in Minnesota because blizzards are unknown.
Within a day's sail of Rampart, down at the junction of the great River Tanana is the town of Tanana, sometimes called Weare. It is regarded as the most beautiful place on the Yukon, being situated on a high intervale with a magnificent view of wide-spreading waters. Cities at the junction of great rivers have always a peculiarly inspiring charm. Tanana has wide streets and the log houses, all adorned with summer blooms, are set far back embowered in lovely colors. Adjoining Tanana is Fort Gibson, established in 1900. It is garrisoned by two companies of United States Infantry and a company of the Signal Corps. It would be no exile for a man to be stationed there even in winter, for the long nights are made gay by all sorts of athletic sports and the summers are a dream of delight a clear sparkling atmosphere perfumed with myriads of roses.
From Tanana one may make a side excursion up the Tanana River to the fine new town of Fairbanks, which is one of the largest centres of population in Alaska. In 1898 Mr. Alfred H. Brooks, one of the ablest attaches of the United States Geological Survey, predicted that gold would be found in the valley of this great river. Four years later Felix Pedro, following the indications, made the first discovery and by the autumn of the next year eight hundred men were staking claims in the various streams that are tributary to it. The district and principal camp were named Fairbanks, after the Vice President of the United States. By 1906 the output of gold had reached more than nine millions; its trade alone in 1907 had attained a volume of more than two millions, and that year a disastrous strike occurred. It was attended with great violence and put a temporary end to the prosperity of the place.
CHAPTER XIV: REINDEER AND ESKIMOS
The story of the introduction of the reindeer into Alaska is most interesting. They have long been comparatively abundant on the other side of Bering Strait but had never been brought to Alaska, nor had any serious attempt ever been made to domesticate the caribou. On the Asian continent his value had long been recognized. Like the banyan tree of the Tropics this product of the North is useful in every part to the native. His flesh is nutritious and especially rich in carbon. The milk is used for drinking and for cheese; the horns are utilized for making knife handles, or when scraped for forming ammonia; the skins are invaluable for clothing and for boots; even the entrails are valuable. The animals feed on the moss of the tundra which has been repeatedly pointed out as sufficient to support ten millions of them; they find it for themselves, scratching up the snow with their sharp hoofs. They require no grass, hay or grain. As carriers across the snow they are far superior to the Eskimo or malamute dogs, and more reliable, a team often being able to make one hundred miles a day.
Dr. Sheldon Jackson, Commissioner of Education for Alaska, conceived the plan of importing a sufficient number of these reindeer from Siberia, together with a number of Laplanders, Finns and Norwegians who were acquainted with their habits and management, so as to train the native Eskimo in the use of the animals. It was felt by him that as the native population was becoming more and more desperate owing to diminution of their natural food supply something should be done to support the unfortunates. With great difficulty he prevailed upon Congress to appropriate a fund for this purpose. His plan was to introduce at each of the thirty-nine schools scattered through the frozen north, from the Yukon to the end of the Aleutian Islands, a nucleus of a herd which should be under the care of reliable natives selected by the teachers. He assured the Government that "reindeer entrusted to the ordinary individual savage would disappear within a twelve-mouth after they had been given to him." So he inaugurated the policy of lending small herds to missionary societies, the Government reserving the right, after a term of not less than three years, to call upon the mission station for the same number of deer that composed the herd leased, being regarded as "in the nature of an outfit of industrial apparatus." Knowing the natural increase of the reindeer he predicted that a herd of five hundred ought to furnish an increase of two hundred each spring. In 1891 sixteen head of reindeer were introduced as an experiment; by natural increase and by the accretion of others imported from Siberia, in two years the number had risen to fourteen hundred and sixty-six. The next year one hundred and sixty-one were imported from Siberia, and in spite of some losses by the next year they had increased to more than two thousand. At the present time the herds are estimated to amount to more than ten times that number, some under Federal control, others loaned to missions for the purposes of industrial training, and still others kept at special stations for emergency purposes.
How useful they may be in such circumstances is well shown by a report made to the Government by the Honorable John G. Brady, the former missionary Governor of Alaska, in 1899. After showing how unjust many persons and even newspapers had been in reviling the chief promoter of the scheme, and calling it a fad, he goes on to say:
"The purchase of several hundred of these animals in Norway and Lapland and their shipment across the Atlantic and the continent and by steamship again from Seattle to Haines Mission, and the dying of a large proportion of them at that point, and all the subsequent evils, had nothing to do with the problems of the introduction of domestic reindeer into western and northern Alaska for the use of the Eskimos. When editors and writers raise the cry of 'failure' and 'fad' they simply show that they are not acquainted with the facts, or, if they are, that they are prejudiced and are not willing to stick to the truth.
"At the very time the cry of starvation was raised in the newspapers concerning the miners on the Klondike, another cry went up that a large number of whalers at Point Barrow were caught in the ice and unless they got relief many would starve to death before spring. Accordingly the revenue cutter Bear was outfitted and sent to give relief. She landed a party of three officers Lieutenants Jarvis and Berthoff and Dr. Call. Under conditions that try men's souls, they made their way from the spot where they were landed at Cape Vancouver, a long distance south of the Yukon River, around the margin of the coast, till they came to the missionary reindeer station at Port Clarence. Here Mr. W.T. Lopp and the native Eskimo, Antisarlook, at the earnest entreaty of Lieutenant Jarvis, turned over their herds of reindeer to him, amounting in all to four hundred and thirty-seven animals, and the natives not only parted with their animals, but volunteered to go with Lieutenant Jarvis to drive them to Point Barrow.
"After several fearful weeks they reached that station and gave immediate relief to those hungry men and kept them alive until the icepack broke up. About a hundred of these animals had to be slaughtered. Surely there was no 'fad' about reindeer at this point. The food they afforded kept two hundred souls alive. Who has ever seen a single notice of this event to the credit of the reindeer, the missionary or the native? Attention was called last year to the heroism of the above-mentioned officers. It will surely compare well with any act of bravery that has occurred within recent years, and we think that Congress should not allow another session to pass without giving them due recognition."
Congress ultimately granted Lieutenant Jarvis a medal for gallant conduct.
The imported Lapps and such natives as took hold of the industry have prospered to such an extent that some of them have accumulated herds of more than a hundred, and one woman, Mary An-dre-wuk, known as the Reindeer Queen, had in 1905 more than three hundred. The advantage to the natives in inspiring in them self-respect and a sense of independence justified the experiment even had it not proved successful in other respects. It is interesting to know that reindeer moss was recommended as a suitable food for human beings by an edict of Gustavus III of Sweden. The taste of it is slightly pungent or acrid, but rather agreeable. The reindeer require no attention: they find their own food, scraping it up from beneath the snow with their sharp hoofs. They do not thrive on grass, hay or grain, though in summer they like grass. An interesting book might be written on the experiences of those who drove bargains with the native tribes of Siberia for reindeer. They had pretty exciting times. Finally the Russian Government forbade their exportation but not before the industry was well established.
Had it not been for the coast mountains the Yukon might have entered Norton Sound after a straight course of less than a hundred miles from Nulato; instead it skirts these mountains, which are probably packed with gold, and flows almost directly south, part of the way running parallel to the great Kuskokwim, and then turning north, debouches into Bering Sea by at least seven mouths. The delta is about a hundred miles wide and the immense quantity of river water pouring out into the sea makes it shallow and fresh for a long distance. The whole region where it ends its course is densely infested with the blood-thirstiest mosquitoes in the world. A sufferer from their torments writes thus feelingly: "Breeding here, as they do in the vast network of slough and swamp, they are able to rally round and to infest the wake and progress of the explorer beyond all adequate description, and language is unable to portray the misery and annoyance accompanying their presence. It will naturally be asked how do the natives bear this? They too are annoyed and suffer, but it should be borne in mind that their bodies are anointed with rancid oil and certain ammoniacal vapors, peculiar to their garments from constant wear, have a repellent power which even the mosquitoes, blood-thirsty as they are, are hardly equal to meet. . . .
"The traveller who exposes his bare eyes or face here loses his natural appearance; his eyelids swell up and close, and his face becomes one mass of lumps and fiery pimples. Mosquitoes torture the Indian dogs to death, especially if one of these animals, by mange or otherwise, loses an inconsiderable portion of its thick hairy covering, and even drive the bear and deer into the water."
This is the barren region of the Coast Eskimos, who, living apart from the whites, hive been able to preserve better their integrity than those nearer the settlements.
The Eskimo or Innuit are among the most interesting people of Alaska, forming about sixty per cent of the whole native population. According to the census of 1890 there were about fourteen thousand of them, mostly settled permanently along the coast of the Bering Sea, and very few, less than one-fifth, within the Arctic Circle. They are by nature "peaceful and docile, trustful and generous." General Greely believes that they are gradually disappearing before the advance of the white men, whose treatment of them, as of all the native races, he calls "disgraceful to a nation claiming to be civilized, humanitarian or Christian." He says:
"In general, contact with the white man has steadily tended to degeneration among the four principal tribes of Alaska, though at times there have been spasmodic and usually fruitless efforts on the part of the United States to correct the most flagrant and degrading violations of personal rights and public decency. . . . In a journey of over two thousand miles through Alaska, the writer discussed the situation with a dozen or more missionaries at nine separate stations and representing six religious bodies. Every one answered in the negative when asked if the natives had improved in honesty, the men in industry, the women in chastity, and the youth in promise of higher morality.
"In mining towns and camps the saloon and dance-house, which foster in men indulgence in liquor and offer to young girls the allurements of finery and a life of apparent ease, are factors potent in degeneration and so attractive in appearance that only few natives withstand them. At remote points traders, fishermen and whalers have been only too often guilty of gross misconduct destructive of the moral character and physical health of the unfortunate native."
General Greely thinks that the Eskimos have suffered more than any other Alaskan race by contact with the white man: "Vitally changed conditions of life have seriously affected the Eskimo, who find their means of subsistence largely destroyed, their habitat invaded, and new methods of life forced upon them. Decimated by epidemic diseases introduced by the whites, victims of unprincipled liquor dealers, often maltreated by vicious traders, and exploited by the unscrupulous, the steady degeneration of these hospitable, merry-hearted and simple-minded people is apparently a matter of time. The introduction of the reindeer, the efforts to teach industrial methods and the rendering of medical aid to the suffering, are the only redeeming and hopeful features of the Eskimo situation at present."
The origin of the Eskimo is a mooted question, the balance of opinion swaying to the conclusion that they did not come from Asia but spread from the East. Their characteristic canoe or kayak, called by the Russians bidarka, is precisely like that used by the Greenland Eskimo. Their skin parka, or outside garment, worn alike by men, women and children, is also characteristic of the whole race. The Alaskan Eskimo are divided into various tribes such as the Kopagmute, Nunatagmute, Mahlemute, Unaligmute, and others, all ending in mute and having similar manners and customs. They have no definitely recognized chief but in each settlement generally one man, a successful trader or fishermen, called the umalik or spokesman, holds some influence among them, not comparable, however, to that of the shaman who takes a great part in their festivities and stimulates their superstitions. They are skilful fishermen and hunters. Fish they catch with hooks and nets; they spear seal on the ice, their implements made of spruce or larch headed with stone or bone or walrus teeth. Parties of a hundred or more natives, all in their kayaks, have been seen silently and in perfect order going out to bunt the beluga or white whale. At a signal given by the leader, the kayaks paddle to seaward of the school and yelling and shrieking and splashing with paddles and spears, frighten the belugas ashore. In former days they would sometimes secure as many as a hundred in a single day. Wounded whales would be kept afloat by means of inflated bladders made of young sealskins.
A feast would follow the slaughter of the beluga, the natives liking the blubber and meat uncooked, or at least parboiled, with whale or seal oil as a sauce. The skins they tan with putrefied fish roe. In summer they do their cooking out of doors and live in log houses roofed with skins and open in front, without chimneys. Their winter houses are half underground huts, often constructed of whale ribs against which are piled logs of drift wood. Outside of this another wall is built, either of stones or logs, the intervals filled with earth or rubble; the whole structure is then covered with sods, leaving a small opening at the top which can be closed by a frame holding a thin, translucent seal skin. The entrance is a passage ten or twelve feet in length which must be "negotiated" on hands and knees. Inside the entrance visitor or fresh air is barred by a bear or reindeer skin curtain. In the centre is the fireplace, the smoke from which is supposed to find its way out of the roof aperture, but generally gets into the eyes of the inmates. The floor may be planked and the family sleep on a sort of divan, covered with mats and skins, which is built along the sides. In case two families inhabit one house the sleeping-places are separated by mat-curtains or a conventional piece of wood, which serves the imagination as a barrier.
Each village has an assembly house called kashga which is often as much as sixty feet square and twenty or thirty feet high. A raised platform sometimes made in three tiers runs around the sides and the general fireplace is very large. Here are carried on the common labors of the natives, their councils, their feasts and festivals, and here sleep the adult unmarried males. Their hot baths also are performed in its superheated and fetid atmosphere.
They love to masquerade and their dances are often accomplished in masks. Sometimes the women appear in male garments, wearing mustaches with bead pendants instead of labrets in the under lip. Sometimes the men appear as women. Their only musical instrument is a bladder drum which is beaten with a thump and a pause, then two thumps and a pause, like a slow waltz. This is accompanied by weird singing. The dancing consists wholly of contortions without moving from the spot. This posturing, which displays suppleness, never depicts anything indecent or immodest. The men wear on these occasions white reindeer skin and summer boots; the women their ordinary dress with the addition of bracelets and beads.
Lieutenant L. Zagoskin of the Russian Navy thus describes an entertainment given by the Eskimo women:
"We entered the kashga by the common passage and found the guests already assembled but of the hostesses nothing was to be seen. On three sides of the apartment stone lamps were lighted, the fire-hole was covered with boards, one of them having a circular opening through which the hostesses were to make their appearance. Two other burning lamps were placed in front of the fire-hole. The guests who formed the chorus began to sing to the sound of the drum, two men keeping them in order by beating time with sticks adorned with wolfs' tails and gulls' wings. Thus a good half hour passed by. Of the song my interpreter told me that it consisted of pleasantry directed against the women; that it was evident they had nothing to give, as they had not shown themselves for so long a time. Another song praised the housewifely accomplishments of some woman whose appearance was impatiently expected with a promised trencher of the mixed mess of reindeer fat and berries. No sooner was this song finished than the woman appeared and was received with the greatest enthusiasm. The dish was set before the men, and the woman retreated amid vociferous compliments on her culinary skill. She was followed by another woman. The beating of drums increased in violence and the wording of the song was changed. Standing up in the centre of the circle the woman began to relate, in mimicry and gesture, how she obtained the fat, how she stored it in various receptacles, how she cleansed and melted it, and then placing a kantag on her head she invited the spectators with gestures to approach. The song went on, while eagerness to partake of the promised luxury lighted up the faces of the crowd. At last the wooden spoons were distributed, one to each man, and nothing was heard for some time but the guzzling of the luscious fluid. Another woman appeared, followed by still another, and luxuries of all kinds were produced in quick succession and as quickly despatched [sic], while the singers pointedly alluded to the praise-worthy Russian custom of distributing tobacco. When the desired luxury had been produced a woman represented with great skill the various stages of stupefaction resulting from smoking and snuffing. All the women appeared in men's parkas."
The return entertainment presented by the men began with a chorus sung under the fire-hole. They informed the women that trapping, hunting, and trade were bad and that they had nothing to do but sing and dance to please the women. Then an antiphonal chorus by the women replied that since they were so lazy that they could not get any food and cared for nothing but smoking and bathing, they had better go supperless to bed. Then the men replied that they would go and hunt for something. One of them appeared through the opening in the fire-hole. He was dressed in female apparel with bead pendants in his nose and with fringes of wolverine tails and beads and bracelets, and this one mimicked the actions of the women. Then throwing off his parka he gave a vivid representation of how seated in his swift kayak he pursued the maklak seal. A whole boiled seal was then served. Others in like manner represented a reindeer hunt, and all sorts of domestic exercises. Sometimes practical jokes are played and are always taken in good spirit and never resented.
The autumnal festival in honor of deceased kinsfolk is thus described by Mr. Ivan Petrof, who is an authority on Alaskan ethnology:
"At sunset the men assemble in the kashga, and, after a hurried bath, ornament each other by tracing various figures with a mixture of oil and charcoal on the naked back. Two boys, who for this occasion are respectively named Raven and Hawk, are in attendance, mixing the paint, etc. Finally the faces also are thickly smeared, and then the females are summoned into the kashga. After a brief lapse of time a noise is heard, shrieks and yells, snorting and roaring, and the disguised men, emerging from the fire-hole show their heads above the floor, blowing and puffing like seals. It is impossible to distinguish any human figure, as some are crawling with their feet foremost, others running on their hands and feet, while the head of another is seen protruding between the legs of a companion. They all cling together and move in concert, like one immense snake. A number of the men wear masks representing the heads of animals, and the unsightly beings advance upon the spectators, but chiefly endeavoring to frighten the women, who have no means of escaping molestation except by buying off the actors with presents. Knowing what was before them, they have brought the kantags or wooden bowls full of delicious morselsbeluga blubber, walrus meat, whale-oiled berries, and other dainties. When each of the maskers has eaten and filled a bowl or two to take home, they indulge in a pantomime and gesture play of a highly grotesque character. After completing the ceremony in the kashga the maskers frequently visit some of the dwellings and receive gifts in each, the whole performance ending with singing, dancing and feasting in the kashga."
At one of these annual memorial feasts witnessed by Zagoskin there were seventy persons present and the gifts that were to be distributed in memory of the seven who had died consisted of spears, arrows, various garments, seal skins, paddles, knives, hatchets, rings, mats, and other articles. Shamans or tungaks acted as masters of the ceremony and furnished the special songs. Then came the dinner, which consisted of mountains of blubber, several boiled seals, and quantities of dried fish. There were as many as fifteen different dishes or courses.
Another quaint festivity is in honor of the spirits of the sea, which they call ingiak. This is performed with the bladders of all the creatures killed during the year. During the first days of December these bladders of fish, rats, mice, squirrels, and seals, bear or deer are inflated, painted gaudy colors, and hung up in the kashga. The men likewise contribute curiously carved figures of birds and fishes, sometimes with ingeniously contrived eyes, heads, or wings. These figures are manipulated all day long and in the meantime are well cured in smoke, amid the chanting of melancholy songs. On the last day they are taken down, attached to painted sticks and carried down to the sea, where they are weighted with stones and set afloat. The people watch them and from their behavior the shamans are enabled to calculate the prosperity of the coming year.
The daily customs of the Alaska Eskimo are quaint and curious. The unmarried men sleep in the kashga, some on reindeer skins, others on bare planks, covering themselves with their parkas in lieu of pajamas, with their trousers for pillows. About eight o'clock in the morning the first person who happens to awake lights the oil lamp. By and by the women bring in the breakfast. After breakfast the men attend to their various duties in looking after their traps or going with a dog-team for wood; the boys and girls set snares for small game. Early in the afternoon the men return from their work. Their wives help them get off their wet clothes, unharness the dogs, and look after the fish or the seal that they have brought home. After dinner the bath is in order. A great fire is lighted inside the kashga, which is speedily heated to suffocation. The men remove their garments, lash themselves with alder branches and dance about, and when they are in a vigorous perspiration they lather themselves with what serves them for soap. This they wash off with fresh water and fling it into the four corners. Then they rush out into the snow or jump into a river if one be near and free from ice. Then the opening of the kashga is removed so that a little ventilation may enter and the men sit around on the platform as if they had had a Turkish bath.
When a native is ill the medicine man is called to drive out the evil spirit. The process is thus described:
"In one of the dwellings sits the patient, suffering from fever and rheumatic pains; before him are placed two lighted oil lamps, and a parka is drawn over his head, while two shamans or tungaks, one standing on each side, alternately sing and beat the drum. Behind them, faintly visible in the semidarkness, is the head of an old woman who, while imitating the croaking of a raven, rubs and pounds the back of the patient. If the pain does not cease the old woman changes her tactics and also her voice, imitating successively the chattering of magpies, the barking of dogs, and the howling of wolves, and if all this be in vain she throws herself upon the sufferer, cuffing and beating him until she makes him forget one pain in another, while the tungaks sing louder and louder and the drums give forth a deafening noise. At last she snatches the parka from the patient's head, yells repeatedly, and points to the roof; the cover of the smoke-hole is removed and the evil spirit which has caused the sickness escapes amid the beating of drums and the triumphant cry, 'He is gone! He is gone! Ugh! Ugh!' and the old woman, her task accomplished, collapses into a mass of rags upon the floor. It is the third spirit driven out of this patient how many more dwell within him nobody can tell; if it was the last he will soon mend, but, on the other hand, if not the last there will be more chanting, more drumming, more cuffing and more payments to the cunning tungaks, until the sick man either dies or can pay no more. The tungaks claim that their scheme and skill consist in discovering what spirit infests the sick man, and to drive it out they do not consider difficult at all."