Prepared by the
Chief of the Foreign Law Section
Law Library of the Library of Congress

Presented by Mr. O'Mahoney
April 6 (legislative day, March 29), 1950
U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington: 1950

Link to CHAPTER IV: Period of Transition, 1862-67

The following is an excerpt from Chapter III, Third Period: Alaska under the second and third charters of the Russian Company of 1821 and 1844 (1821-62).



The colonial administration was completely changed under the Charter of 1821 and general improvement of the condition of natives was noticeable especially towards the end of this period. From the time of the second Charter the governors of the colonies, though in the employment of the Company, were selected from among senior naval officers of high character who paid more attention to the welfare of the natives. The fur hunting trade was the main purpose of the establishment of the Company and it was intended to be its principal business until the sale of Alaska. The welfare of the natives was considered by the Company chiefly from this angle. Any improvement of their living conditions which might develop the fur trade was made. This applies directly to the natives called by the 1821 Charter "islanders"; i. e., the original inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands where the principal establishments of the Company were located and the natives settled there by the Russians under Baranov to catch sea animals for the Company. Only a few native tribes of the mainland and the peninsula in the immediate vicinity of a few trading posts or redoubts established there by the Company were in a permanent contact with it.

Both Charters outline the status of population of the Russian possessions in a similar way; viz, they distinguish in addition to Russians, both the employees and the colonists, the so-called Creoles (half-breeds of Russians and natives), and the full-blood natives.


Among the full-blood natives the Charter of 182l20 distinguishes (a) tribes "inhabiting places administered by the, Company" or "Islanders," and (b) tribes "inhabiting the coast of America where the Company has its colonies." The Charter of 1844 provides three categories instead; viz, (a) dependent called also settled tribes, (b) independent tribes, and (c) "not wholly" dependent tribes.

The provisions of the Charter of 1844 remained in force at the time of the cession of Alaska and are therefore of more than historical interest. They constitute a part of the laws in force in the territory subsequently acquired by the United States and are therefore subject to judicial notice by the American courts. This is the opinion of Judge Wickersham in United States v. Berrigan, 2 Alaska 446:

Where territory has been acquired by the United States from a foreign power, its courts will take judicial notice of the laws which prevailed there up to the time of such acquisition. They are not, as to such acquired territories, foreign laws, but laws of an antecedent government. United States v. Perot, 98 U. S. 428, 25 L. ed. 251; Fremont v. United States, 17 How. (U. S.) 542, 15 L. ed. 241.

Both Charters declared all Russians, the half-breeds ("creoles"), and the dependent (settled) tribes to be recognized as "Russian subjects" enjoying full protection of law (Charter 1844, sections 227, 237, 249; Charter 1821, sections 41, 43). Both Charters refrained from stating whether or not the other natives are Russian subjects.

The provisions of the Charter of 1844 dealing with the natives are of special importance in view of the clauses of Article 3 of the Treaty of Cession of Alaska. This Article distinguishes two groups within the Alaskan population, which distinction unquestionably relates in some way to the one made in the Charter of 1844. Article 3 of the Treaty of March 30, 1867 (15 Stat. 542), promised to the inhabitants of Alaska "all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States" with the exception of "the uncivilized tribes." The uncivilized tribes were subject to "such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to the aboriginal tribes of that country"; i. e., the Indians.21 The whole situation was described by Judge Wickersham in U.S. v. Berrigan (2 Alaska Reports at 445-446) as follows:

This treaty stipulation divided the inhabitants into three general classes: (1) Those Russian subjects who preferred to reserve their natural allegiance were to do so, and were permitted "to return to Russia within three years"; (2) those Russian subjects who preferred to remain in the ceded territory, and were guaranteed that they "shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the right advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion"; and (3) the uncivilized tribes in the territory, who were promised nothing more than that they should be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country."

It may be assumed that the Russian government sought to induce the United States to stipulate the American citizenship for those who enjoyed Russian citizenship under the Russian laws; i. e., to members of those groups of the Alaskan population that were recognized as Russian subjects and this conclusion was drawn by the American court. Said Judge Wickersham In re Minook (2 Alaska Reports 200) and United States v. Berrigan (2 Alaska Reports 445):

It appears, then, that the imperial law recognized the Russian colonists in Alaska, their creole children [half-breeds, see infra V. G.] and those settled tribes who embraced the Christian faith, as Russian subjects. * * * Those laws and these social conditions continued to exist at the date of the Treaty of Cession in 1867. * * * It was these people, Russian colonists, creoles, and settled tribes, members of the established Church, whom Russia engaged the United States to admit as citizens, and to maintain and protect "in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion."

Only one objection may be made against the view expressed in this passage. The view that the Christian faith was a prerequisite for the recognition of a tribe as settled does not find any support in the Russian laws. These definitely provided for the possibility of existence of pagans among the tribes who, otherwise, were considered settled and enjoyed the status of the same. Thus section 248 of the Charter of 1844 stated:

248. The settled tribes professing the Christian belief are not designated by any special name; those professing the native faith shall be styled for the purpose of identification "settled tribes of other religions."

Moreover, the exercise of native faith was expressly guaranteed (sections 271-273). However, at the time of the cession of Alaska all dependent tribes were in fact Christians and in that sense the decision has correctly described the situation by stating that the settled tribes "supported a Russian Church, attended and assisted in its services, and practiced the moral precepts taught therein." Yet, although all settled tribes were Christians there were also tribes professing Christianity who did not have the status of settled tribes but were either not wholly or totally independent (see in infra).

With this reservation the above decisions have resolved, in full accord with the Russian imperial laws, the application of the citizenship clause of Article 3 of the Treaty of 1867. Prior to the act of June 2, 1924 (8 U.S.C.A., sec. 3), the right of American citizenship could be justly claimed only by the Russian Colonists who remained in Alaska, the "Creoles" (half-breeds, see infra) members of the settled tribes and the descendants of such persons.

But this still leaves open the question whether all the "not wholly" dependent and the independent tribes should come under the category of the "uncivilized tribes" subject to "such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to the aboriginal tribes of that country"; i. e., the Indians.

Moreover, the provisions of the treaty are silent with regard to the rights of the natives to the land which they have used for their habitat and hunting grounds. Do the provisions of the Russian laws dealing with the natives offer any data for an answer to this question? The relevant material is analysed infra under 7. Again a brief outline of the status of the half-breeds and the settled tribes may help to ascertain the whole situation (see infra 3, 4).

Finally, in view of the fact that the Russians have called individual tribes by names different from those used at the present time in Alaska and failed in certain instances to identify the racial stock of a tribe, it seems necessary to attempt to define more specifically what tribes in particular were considered not wholly dependent or independent at the time of the cession and which should be classed with the "uncivilized tribes" provided for in Article 3 of the Treaty of 1867. Material for the consideration of these problems, derived from the Russian sources, is offered under 6 and in the Appendix 3, containing the translations of the pertinent source material.


Both Charters distinguish natives from "creoles," the latter term implying the half-breeds of Russians and natives (sec. 41 of the 1821 Charter, sec. 236 et seq. of the 1844 Charter).22 The creoles constituted a separate social group with its own status. The creoles were Russian subjects forming a separate estate equal to the rank of commoners, that is, to a free station of Russian people (1844 Charter, sec. 237). They had no duties or liabilities towards the Company unless they had been educated at the expense of the Company (sec. 240 ff.), and they were free from all taxes and duties. Those of the creoles who had received their education in Russia enjoyed the same rights as the Russians. Many of them held high positions in the Russian navy and with the Company. For example, Captain Etolin, Administrator-General, later rear admiral, Captain Kashevarov, and others of distinction, were creoles.

Mr. Kostlivtsev summarized his observations during the visit to the colonies in 1860 as follows:

While I was visiting the colonies I met creoles among all the social classes of the colonial population, beginning with the commissioned officers and captains of the company vessels down to the ordinary manual laborers who were in no way different from the Aleuts; many of the creoles occupied various posts of greater or lesser distinction in the company service. This unquestionably proves that, in fact, there is no "estate" of creoles in the proper sense and this appellation belongs to them by birth, and therefore the principle of the reform in this respect must be the abolition of this name, against which the local people have some kind of prejudice."23


The regime under which the settled tribes lived is described by the Russians as a kind of benevolent guardianship in the interests both of the Company and the natives themselves. The settled tribes who were primarily of Aleutian and Eskimo stock (see infra) were considered a good-natured and peaceful folk indispensable for the Company's business. But, argued the Company, due to their light-mindedness and irresponsibility, they are doomed if left alone. They will not be able to take care of themselves, and the wildlife, the source of their subsistence, will be badly depleted.24 The development which followed the purchase of Alaska seems to support to a great extent these predictions.

The settled natives were free from taxes as well as from military or any other duties toward the government and the Company (section 251)."25 There were, however, some equivalents. The settled natives were not allowed to sell furs to anybody except the Company, and were subject to compulsory labor (hunting) for the Company for which they were paid (section 264). To this end, the Company was entitled to assign annually half of the male population between 18 and 50 years of age to the hunt and had to pay them at established rates (sections 266, 267). Those who rendered this service for three years were replaced by others (section 268). The Company had to provide the hunters with all necessary equipment and clothes (section 267), and pay according to an established rate. Thus, in a way the natives were better off than the Russian serfs of that time, the latter rendering their services to the manorial lord free.

The property rights of the natives were fully recognized: "Any fortune acquired by a native through work, purchase, exchange, or inheritance shall be his full property; whoever attempts to take it * * * shall be punished * * *" (section 263; see also section 276). However, this referred primarily to personal property. The right to landholdings in any form remained totally unregulated. At that time, land titles were unknown among the peasants in the greater part of Russia and were not regulated in the colonies. The actual holdings of the natives were, however, to be respected. This is the evident intention of sections 263 and 235. Thus, "In the allotment, of ground to the Russian colonists," stated the Charter of 1844 (sec. 235), "the Company shall particularly bear in mind that the natives are not to be embarrassed and that the Colonists are to support themselves by their own labor without any burden to the natives." But no restriction is to be found in the Charter of 1844 concerning the disposal of land for the needs of the Company. Provisions of sec. 49 of the Charter of 1821 according to which the Company was "obligated to leave at the disposal of Islanders as much land as is necessary for all their needs at the places where they were settled or will be settled was not repeated in the Charter of 1844. After all, the Company took care of all the supplies of the dependent natives and agriculture hardly existed in any form.

Kostlivtsev, who by commission of the Russian government investigated the situation on the spot in 1860, gave the following characteristics of the life of Aleuts who constituted the bulk of the settled tribes:

An Aleut personally is not a slave, he is not a serf of some master, nobody forces him to do anything; but if one looks more closely at his situation, one has to admit that he is a slave of his environment in the full sense of the word. His free will is restricted by local conditions to such an extent that all his acts and all his rights are a result of most burdensome duties and are connected either with restrictions or deprivations. * * * Having presented this unsatisfactory picture of the life and conditions of Aleuts, it would be a mistake to blame the Company unconditionally. It is within its power to alleviate their difficulties only to an extent, but to change everything completely would exceed the powers and the possibilities of the Company. The soil, the local conditions, and in particular the climate will forever be obstacles to the development of the welfare of this tribe. * * *26

The natives were allowed to fish along their shores, but not to leave them except with the permission of the colonial authorities (section 264) which was explained by the danger due to other tribes and rough weather.

As a supplementary source to the Charter the following two documents deserve special mention: Instruction for the Manager of the Kodiak office issued by Captain Etolin, the Administrator-General, on March 9, 1845, No. 9, and Rules for the Chiefs Elected as Superintendents of the Settlements of Aleuts in the Kodiak District, issued by the same officer in 1844.27 Both directives were actually followed in other districts also.


In regard to the full-blooded natives the Charter of 1821 distinguishes between "the tribes inhabiting the places administered by the Company" (sec. 42) whom it practically identified with the "Islanders" (secs. 43-56) and all others of the American Continent (secs. 57-59). An approximate enumeration of the tribes of the first group only is given by the Charter (sec. 42).

The natives placed under the colonial administration were "recognized by the government as Russian subjects equal with all other subjects" and constituted a special estate (social group) "so long as they remain in the colonies or do not pass, by merit or for any other cause, into a different station" (sec. 43). Regarding the tribes of the interior of the continent, the Company was required "not to make any effort to conquer them," to limit the contact with them to peaceful trading posts, if necessary, and to "avoid anything which might create in these people suspicion of the intention to violate their independence" (sec. 57).

The Charter of 1844 distinctly divides the full-blooded natives into three categories. The first category is called "settled tribes" or tribes "dependent" on the colonial administration (secs. 247-272). But all others of the Charter of 1821 form, under the Charter of 1844, two somewhat different groups; viz, the second category called "tribes not wholly dependent on the colonial administration" (sec. 280) and the third category called " tribes independent" of such administration (sec. 285). The Charter enumerates in general terms only the natives classed with the first category (sec. 247). It does, not contain any enumeration or any other criterion with regard to the "not wholly dependent" or "independent" tribes. The pertinent provisions read:


SEC. 280. The tribes dwelling within the boundaries of the Russian colonies, but not wholly dependent, shall enjoy the protection of the colonial administration only on making a request therefor, and when such request is deemed worthy of consideration.

SEC. 281. The colonial government shall not forcibly extend the possessions of the Company in regions inhabited by tribes not dependent on the colonial authorities.

SEC. 282. If the colonial government deems it useful to open, for the safety of its trade operations, factories, redoubts, or so-called single posts in some places of the American continent, it shall proceed by the consent of the natives of these places, and apply all possible means to obtain their favor, trying to avoid anything which might arouse their suspicion of any intention to infringe upon their independence.

SEC. 283. The Company shall be prohibited from demanding from these people tributes, taxes, or donations of any kind whatever and, in times of peace, shall not forcibly take any of them away from their own race, save only the hostages given under the usage heretofore existing. The hostages shall be kept in comfort, and the authorities shall exercise special vigilance that no insult be offered them.

SEC. 284. In the event of any of these people desiring to move into localities occupied by the settled tribes, the colonial administration may permit such migration, if it shall appear that the colonies will not thereby be endangered. Such immigrants shall be received into the number of the settled tribes and shall enjoy the rights and immunities granted to that class of persons.

SEC. 285. The relations of the colonial administration with the independent natives shall be limited to the exchange, by mutual consent, of European wares for furs and native products.

The line drawn by these provisions between the independent and not wholly dependent tribes certainly lacks precision. The vague language finds its explanation in the fact that some of the tribes were nomadic and that the interior of Alaska and even a considerable part of the shore were not explored. There was no boundary established dividing the territory actually under Russian control from the unexplored country of the independent natives. Kostlivtsev who studied the situation on the spot on behalf of the Russian government observes:

The Independent natives of Indians of various names such as, for instance Tlingits, Mednovtsi, Kuskokwim, Kwikhpachtsi, and others, not only have their nomadic habitat within the confines of Russian possessions, but also live within these confines, and therefore we do not have any fortified boundary posts in the proper sense.28

Thus it seems that the fact that a tribe lives within the confines of the territory under Russian control was insufficient to define it as dependent or even not wholly dependent. Although the Charter does not state in precise terms the criteria of dependence of a tribe, they may be gathered from the provisions summarized above under 3, when dealing with the status of the settled tribes. Sections 264, 265, 267, and 275 of the Charter of 1844 in particular indicate the essential elements of the relations between the dependent tribes and the Company. The dependent natives were under obligation to catch fur animals for the Company and, in return, they were paid by the Company according to a tariff (sections 264, 265) and were supplied with food, clothes, boats, and other instruments needed for the catch (sec. 267). Such natives were also under obligation to sell the furs to the Company only (sec. 275).

Finally, they were expressly regarded as Russian subjects (sec. 249) and their disputes came under the jurisdiction of Chiefs approved by the Colonial administrators and certain employees of the Company (sec. 276).

As mentioned elsewhere (supra, 2), the professing of the Christian faith was not the criterion of a settled tribe. There were Christians among the independent tribes also.

It must be borne in mind that the colonial administration and the Russian writers classed one or another tribe with the dependent natives using the above-mentioned criteria and not those of the actual level of civilization of the tribe or the faith professed. Thus it may appear that a tribe not wholly dependent or independent according to some Russian authorities may nevertheless answer the requirements set forth in decisions of the American court for that part of the Alaskan population which does not belong to the "uncivilized tribes" contemplated by Article 3 of the Treaty of 1867. Thus all the settled tribes must be excluded from the category of the "uncivilized tribes." As stated by Judge Wickersham "it was * * * the settled tribes * * * whom Russia engaged the United States to admit as citizens" (supra, 2). But, with reference to all other natives, one should rely on their condition as described by the Russian sources, rather than on the label officially placed on them by the same sources.


Both Charters contain an enumeration of the Alaskan native tribes which is, however, totally inadequate for the purpose of identification of the "uncivilized tribes" provided for in Article 3 of the Treaty of Cession of Alaska. The Charter of 1821 enumerates "natives inhabiting the localities under the administration of the Company" as follows: "Islanders, Kurils, Aleuts, and others . . . [dots in the original] as well as tribes living on the American coast, such as Kenais, Chugach and others" (sec. 42).

The Charter of 1844 states more definitely that the settled tribes include: "the inhabitants of the Kuril Islands, of the Aleutian Islands, of the Kodiak and the adjacent islands and of the Alaskan peninsula; as also the natives living on the shores of America, such as the Kenais the Chugach and others" (sec. 247). These provisions leave open the question who the tribes of the peninsula and of the American coast are that, in addition to the Kenais and Chugach, are considered settled. Nor do they indicate the racial stock of the "Chugach," and "Kenais." Finally, the official reports of the Russian American Company carry statistics concerning some other tribes, classing them with one or another category, classifications with which some other reliable Russian observers of that time disagree. Both the reports and the observers refer to these tribes by names no longer in use at the present time. Nor do the names of their habitats remain unchanged. In view of this situation the scattered information to be found in the Russian sources concerning the individual tribes, clans or even bands of natives must be brought into a system. Fortunately an extensive study of native tribes was made in 1880 by Ivan Petrof, special agent of the Bureau of Census, a prominent authority on Alaskan ethnology who studied the situation on the spot at the time when the names used by Russians were still current.29 Petrof classified all the natives by race using all the Russian sources with which he was well familiar and other studies made after the purchase of Alaska. Several reports on expeditions sent from 1869 to 1898 by the War Department to explore various parts of Alaska, printed in a cumulative report in 1900, follow also the classification adopted by Petrof whose study was reprinted as a kind of introduction to these reports.30 Petrof's classification is therefore used as a basis in the present study. Petrof divides the Alaskan natives into four groups of families:

(a) The Aleut (Oonangan);

(b) The Eskimo (Innuit); and two Indian groups:

(c) Tlingit (Tlinkit, Russian Kolosh), and

(d) Athapaskan (Tinneh or Khotana or Ahtena).

The Aleut, the Eskimo, and the Tlingit, according to Petrof, "occupy the whole coast of Alaska, forming as it were a barrier between the Athapaskan in the interior and the sea coast, except in one instance where the latter people have succeeded in supplanting the Eskimo on the shores of Cook Inlet."31

As we will see later some of the tribes of Eskimo stock were independent in 1867 and should be therefore classed with the "uncivilized tribes," and have the status of Indians. They are so to speak "Indians" in a legal sense without being of Indian stock. But some settled tribes of Indian stock should not be treated as "Indians" in a legal sense.

The Russian sources contain direct references to the Aleuts and to the Tlingits whom they call Kolosh. Only separate clans or bands from among the others are mentioned under the name given them by Russians or resembling the names used by modern ethnologists. Moreover, one non-Aleut tribe (Kadiaktsi) was counted by most of the Russians among Aleuts. Regarding the following tribes mentioned in the Russian sources, the question may arise as to whether they should be considered uncivilized within the meaning of Article 3 of the Treaty of 1867.

The Aglegmute, Chugach, Kadiaktsi, Kuskokwim, Malegmute, and Ugolentsi are of Eskimo stock, although the Ugolentsi were classed with the Tlingits by the Russians.

The Kenais, Kotchane (Colchane, also Tundra Kolosh), and Mednovtsi are Athapaskans.

The Russian sources in passing also mention the Asiagmute and Malemute who, judging by the "mute" ending in their names, are Eskimos, as totally independent and uncivilized, furthermore the Kwikhpachtsi who evidently are Athapaskan Indians along the Yukon (Kwikhpacht is another name for the Yukon). Golovin also mentions the Kiatentsi among the tribes living on the coast of the Bering Sea and the rivers emptying into it, without any further specification of their habitat, for which reason their racial affiliation cannot be identified. There is no need of any further study on these tribes because they had no permanent contact with the white men, hence were uncivilized in 1867.

It may be of interest to quote also the statement made in the recent historical Soviet study of Alaska by Okun (1939):

The management of the company counted among the "really dependent tribes" the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands whom the company settled on the territory of numerous islands occupied by the company, as well as probably the Eskimos, who in the documents of the company passed under the name of Aleuts. With the "semi-dependent tribes" were classed the so-called Kenais who lived on the coast of the Kenais Peninsula and were one of the branches of the numerous group of Athapaskan as well as the other Athapaskan tribes which inhabited the interior of Alaska. As far as the Tlingits are concerned they were considered "not wholly dependent."

Essentially the two last-named categories may be considered totally independent, and only the Aleuts and Eskimos experienced to the full extent the weight of the colonial oppressions.32

a. Aleuts.  All Aleuts were unanimously classed with the dependent and consequently civilized tribes by all Russian observers. Their habitat is described by Petrof as follows:

The Aleuts (or Ununqun of Dall, the Takha-Yuna of the Kinnants, or Oonagan according to Veniaminoff and my own observation) inhabit the Northern coast of the Alaska Peninsula, from Cape Stroganof westward, and its Southern coast from Pavlof Bay westward, the Shumagin Islands, and the whole group known as the Aleutian chain, extending from the Shumagins in the east to the Island of Attoo in the west.33

Judge Wickersham, In re Minook, 2 Alaska Reports 218, described the habitat of all the dependent tribes, including the Aleuts, as follows:

The settled tribes lived, as they and their descendants do now, at Unalaska, Belkofski, Unga, Kodiak, Kenai, Seldovia, Nuchek. Tatitlek, and other points from the outer Aleutian Islands to Yakutat Bay, as also at Ft. Alexander, at the head of Bristol Bay, at St. Michael, on Bering Sea, at the Russian Mission and Nulato, on the Yukon river. At these and other colonies or trading posts they gathered in permanent villages; they supported a Russian church, attended and assisted in its services, and practiced the moral precepts taught therein.

Moreover, in the same decision it was held:

It was these people, Russian colonists, creoles, and settled tribes, members of the established Church whom Russia engaged the United States to admit as citizens, and to maintain and protect, in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion.

Concerning the Aleuts, the following information is given in a recent Soviet book (1948) without indication of sources:

By the beginning of World War II there were only 400 persons on islands who considered themselves Aleutians and lived in the following settlements: on Unalaska in Iliuliuk (about 300), Makushin, and Chernof; on Umnak in Nikolski; on Akutan at the whaling station; on Atka in Nazan, on Attu at the Chichagof Harbour. In July 1942 all Aleutians were transferred to the Admiralty Islands of the Alexander Archipelago.34

b. Eskimo.  To the Eskimo group belong a large number of tribes with the "mute" or "gmute" ending in their name. Petrof describes their habitat as follows:

The Eskimo or Innuit, numbering nearly 18,000, inhabit the whole coast line of Alaska west of the one hundred and forty-first meridian, with the exception of the northern part of Cook Inlet, that portion of the Alaska Peninsula lying west of the one hundred and fifty-seventh meridian, and the Shumagin and Aleutian groups of Islands.35

Various degrees of dependency upon the Russian American Company may be observed among the Eskimo tribes. Some of them, primarily those on the sea coast, should unquestionably be classed with the dependent tribes, others with not wholly dependent, and still others with the independent tribes.

To this race belong two tribes which the Russians considered to be of Aleutian stock; viz, Kadiaktsi and Chugach. (The passages from the Russian writers hereafter referred to are printed in the Appendix N. 3.)

(1) Kadiaktsi, whom Petrof called Kaniagmute, inhabitants of Kodiak Island, were settled and Christian according to all sources.

(2) Chugach, whom Petrof called Chugachimute, inhabited the shores of Prince William Sound (the Russians called it Sound of Chugach). The Russian law mentioned them among the settled tribes and Russian subjects (supra). Kostlivtsev and Captain Golovin who visited them in 1860 did not consider them to be dependent upon the Russian American Company but, nevertheless, described their condition in terms which suggest that they were not less civilized than the Aleuts. The Board of Directors of the Company considered them to be settled.

The official reports of the Russian American Company mention also Agliagmute and Kuskokwim36 as apparently dependent or not wholly dependent.

(3) Agliagmute.  Petrof, Golovin, and Kostlivtsev characterize them as Christians, and the same may be inferred from the description by Tikhmenev. However, from the information given by these writers it may be concluded only that they were not totally dependent upon the Company. The data available to the writer do not permit any conclusion as to whether they should be classed with the uncivilized tribes. Characteristics given them by Kostlivtsev speaks rather against them being considered uncivilized.

(4) Kuskokwimgmute lived along the river Kuskokwim. They were Christian. Tikhmenev definitely characterizes them as partly dependent upon the Company. Kostlivtsev states that "they perform various works for the Company for wages." Petrof's lengthy characteristics, though not allowing any definitive conclusion, suggest that they were rather a civilized tribe.

(5) Malegmute.  According to Petrof they inhabit the country between Kotzebue and Norton Sounds occupying villages upon the coast of both these estuaries. They are mentioned by Golovin along with the Agliagmute without any specific information. Tikhmenev speaks highly of their trading abilities but their relations with the Company are not characterized.

(6) Ugolentsi, according to Petrof, Oughalakmute are a tribe of the Eskimo race but mixed with the Tlingit Indians. They occupied the coast near Mount St. Elias, but later were settled in the lowlands on the mouth of the Copper River. Tikhmenev classes them with the Tlingit Indians. The level of their civilization cannot be established from the Russian sources. On the map attached to the report of the Russian American Company for 1859 and 1860 this tribe is indicated as Ugaliakhmute.

c. Tlingits.  Tlingits (Kolosh of the Russians) are the most important and numerous tribes of Alaskan Indians. Petrof describes their number and location as follows:

The tribe or race who call themselves Thlinket (that is, man in their own language), but who received from the Russians the names of Kaliushi, Koliushi, or Kolosh, inhabit the coast of North America from Mount Saint Elias to the Columbia River, or from latitude 60 degrees to 45 degrees north. The subject of my investigation, however, has been that portion of the race living north of the Nass River, or of the British boundary. Veniaminof estimated the number of the whole race at from 20,000 to 25,000 living within the Russian lines [boundaries], but the estimate was made in 1840, and if it was correct, a remarkable decrease in numbers must have taken place since. The term Kolosh, applied to the Thlinkets by the Russians, is not recognized by them. It is a term perhaps derived from the Aleut word kaluga, signifying a trough or wooden dish.37

All Russian observers considered the Tlingits as independent and even hostile. (The pertinent passages are to be found in the Appendix No. 3). However, the unfavorable characteristics to be found in the reports of earlier explorers are somewhat counter-balanced by the characteristics given to the Tlingits by Veniaminov,38 and in the concluding passages of Tikhmenev. It must also not be left out of sight that several official acts of the Russian government indicate that at least some of the Tlingit chieftains were, at the end of the period, won over to the Russian side and that they became loyal to the Russian regime. A reference is made to the appointment of a Tlingit Kuchkan as the principal Chief (Toen) of the colonies39 and a similar appointment made for the Stakhin region in 1862.40 In any event the question of the status of Tlingit Indians came up before the Alaskan Court and was decided as follows:

United States v. Lynch

                        7 Alaska Reports 572

Undoubtedly at the time of the cession of Alaska to the United States on March 30, 1867, the Tlinket tribe of Indians was classed as an uncivilized tribe. Article 3 of the treaty of cession, between the United States and Russia, provides that:

"The inhabitants of the ceded territory, * * * if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from time to time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country."

Under this treaty the Tlinket tribe became subject to such rules and regulations as the United States may thereafter adopt as to the native Indians of the United States. Therefore, by the provisions of the treaty, the Indians of the Tlinket tribe became citizens of the United States, in common with the native Indian tribes of the United States, under the act of June 2, 1924 (8 U, S. C. A., sec. 3), which provided that all noncitizen Indians, born within the territorial limits of the United States, shall be citizens, and that the granting of citizenship shall not, in any manner, impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.

d. Athapaskans (Tinneh).  These are the general characteristics of this Indian stock as given by Petrof and Judge Wickersham (spelling of its name used by them is followed in the quotation):

Petrof:  The Athabascans or Tinneh include a large number of tribes classed as "North American Indians" extending from the mouth of the Mackenzie River in the north to the borders of Mexico in the South. The northernmost tribes of this stock extend in a westerly direction nearly to the coast of the Bering Sea and the Yukon Delta, touching the seacoast at one point in the northern point of Cook Inlet. At every other point they are separated from the ocean by a belt of Eskimo population. * * * While the Eskimo tribes of Alaska, especially those living southward of Bering Strait, have the faculty of assimilating with races of a higher type, the Athabascans of the far north have thus far displayed no traits which would warrant us to hope for their speedy civilization. With the exception of the Tinnats or Kenai people on Cook Inlet, they have not been in direct contact with Caucasians until lately and with the one exception before mentioned they have not taken kindly to the invaders of their vast domain.41

In 1905 Judge Wickersham (United States v. Berrigan, 2 Alaska 447), obviously overlooking the exceptional case of the Kenai tribe on the coast of Cook Inlet, gave the following general characteristics of Athapaskans which should apply primarily to the tribes in the interior.

The pleadings and evidence in this case show that the natives, for whom the government appears, belong to that stock so widely scattered throughout the Yukon and its tributary valleys, and which the science of ethnology classes as belonging to the Athapascan stock. Nor is this stock confined even to the wide ranges of the Yukon; they inhabit the whole interior of Alaska, a region almost as large as the United States east of the Mississippi River, and also nearly the whole of British North America; they crossed the mountain ranges at the head of the Yukon, and inhabited the Fraser headwaters and the region around the upper Columbia lakes. Bands of these hardy rovers were found in Washington, Oregon, and northern California; they passed from the Columbia River Basin, probably by the way of the Great Salt Lake country, into New Mexico and Arizona, and thence into Mexico. The Umpquas in Oregon, and the Navajos and dread Apaches of the Mexican border, belong to this widely distributed family, and speak the common stock language spoken by their northern brothers along the Tanana and Yukon. Throughout their wide southern migration they have everywhere preserved and are characterized by a wild and roving disposition, and of all the native tribes of North America, they more nearly than any other are fitly described as "uncivilized native tribes." Roche v. Washington, 19 Ind. 53, 56, 81 Am. Dec. 376. The Tinneh tribes of Alaska were uncivilized native tribes at the date of the treaty with Russia, and the evidence in this case shows that the band for which this suit is brought still occupies that plane of culture.

Pertinent passages from the Russian sources antecedent to the purchase of Alaska are given in the Appendix No. 3.

(1) Kenais, Tinnats. Among the numerous clans of the Athapaskans the Russian sources mention in the first place the Kenais, inhabitants of the coast of Cook Inlet whom Petrof calls Tinnats or Tinnats-Khotana who are the only Athapaskan tribe occupying any portion of the sea coast. They came in contact with the Russians early and the data concerning them are given for the last time in the official report of the Company as of January 1, 1862.42 Both Charters mention them expressly as a settled tribe. That they should not be classed with the uncivilized tribes is supported by the description of their condition given by Capt. E.F. Glenn and Lieut. H.G. Learnard who explored the region in 1898. According to them, natives along the coast, i. e., the Kenais, live in settlements close to the Russian settlements; they are Russian Orthodox, speak Russian which is used in the intertribal intercourse of the region, and have adopted the ways of white men to a greater or lesser degree."43

(2) Mednovtsi and (3) Kolchane (Golchane, Tundra Kolosh). The Russians called the Copper River Indians in general by the name of Mednovtsi (copper in Russian is med and Copper river-Mednaia Reka, hence Mednovtsi) but more specifically it was applied to the tribe of Ahtena, while the Indians of the head waters were also called Kolchane, Golchane, or Tundra Kolosh (Tlingit). Although some of the Ahtena were Christians, the Russians described both these tribes as uncivilized and hostile to the white men. With reference to Kolchane, Petrof states that "the many traditions of their treacherous and warlike character handed down to us by the Russians may safely be looked upon as fabulous,"44 but he supports somewhat the other view in describing the Ahtena.45 Captain Abercrombie who visited this region in 1898 considered the Indians of the Tuzlena district (numbering 150), and of the Gakona and Chestochena Valleys (numbering 75) to be "the remnants of what were known to the Russians as the Upper River Indians, or Colchanes" i.e., Kolchane.46 He considers these Indians, as well as their neighbors the Klutena and Chettynas, "whom the Russians in their palmiest days could not subjugate" to be "honest, inclined to be friendly, and temperate".


With reference to the rights of the independent and not wholly dependent tribes to the lands they occupied, certain provisions of the Charter of 1844 suggest, by implication, that they were to be respected by the colonial administration. Thus, the Charter of 1844 provided that "The tribes dwelling within the boundaries of the Russian colonies, but not wholly dependent, shall enjoy the protection of the colonial authorities only on making a request therefor and when such a request is deemed worthy of consideration" (section 280). The relations of the colonial administration with the independent tribes were "to be limited to the exchange of European wares for furs and other native products" (section 285). The colonial government was expressly prohibited from "extending the possessions of the Company in regions inhabited by tribes not dependent on the colonial authorities" (section 281).

These provisions may be construed as a recognition, by implication, of the integrity of land possessions of both the not wholly dependent and the independent natives. The Russian laws not only have refrained from granting the Company any rights or privileges regarding the land occupied by such natives, but also have positively prohibited the Company from any "extension of the possessions of the Company in regions inhabited" by such tribes. The rights of the tribes to undisturbed possession was tacitly recognized by virtue of that fact. However, nothing in the Treaty of 1867 suggests that any such obligation was undertaken by the United States. The provisions of the Charter show merely a factual situation taken over by the United States upon the cession of Alaska, but no obligation to maintain it. That the Russian government was of the same opinion is clear from the memorandum prepared by the Russian Ministry of Finance and attached to the letter of November 21, 1867, reproduced in Appendix No. 3, No. 1.47 It shows that the Russian government failed to give a direct answer to the inquiry by the United States Government concerning the rights of natives to the land and gave a description of the actual situation instead. Nevertheless, since the act of May 17, 1884 (23 Stat. 24), the protection of the use and occupation of land by aboriginal tribes of Alaska was provided for in several acts of Congress and upheld by the courts of Alaska. The situation was summarized in the following syllabus to the decision in U. S. v. Lynch of August 3, 1927:

Indians, who are of the aboriginal tribes inhabiting Alaska at the time of its cession to the United States on March 30, 1867, and who resided upon and used and occupied lands therein for homes and camping places, and were so in possession on May 17, 1884, and June 6, 1900, and have not surrendered or abandoned the same, shall not be disturbed in the possession thereof by the courts of Alaska.

To quote the leading cases (see also Appendix No. 4):

United States v. Cadzow (5 Alaska Reports 131):

The following acts of Congress each contain a provision protecting the Indians in Alaska in the use and occupancy of lands claimed by them:

An act to provide a civil government for Alaska, approved May 17, 1884 (23 Stat. 24).

An act to repeal timber culture laws, and for other purposes, approved March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 1095).

An act extending homestead laws and providing for right of way for railroads in the district of Alaska, and for other purposes, approved May 14, 1898 (30 Stat. 412).

An act making further provision for a civil government for Alaska, and for other purposes, approved June 6, 1900 (31 Stat. 330).

United States v. Lynch (7 Alaska Reports 573):

The act of May 17, 1884, provides that:

"Indians or other persons in said district shall not be disturbed in any lands actually in their use or occupation or now claimed by them, but the terms under which such persons may acquire title to such lands is reserved for future legislation by Congress" (section 8, act May 17, 1884, 23 Stat. 26).

Section 27 of the act of June 6, 1900 (31 Stat. 330; 48 U. S. C. A., sec. 356 (U. S. Comp. St., sec. 5095), provides that:

"Indians * * * shall not be disturbed in the possession of any lands actually in their use or occupation."

United States v. Berrigan (2 Alaska Reports, 448-449):

Congress has also, by special enactment, provided for the protection of the Indian right of occupancy upon the public domain in Alaska. By the eighth section of "An act to provide a civil government for Alaska," approved May 17, 1884 (ch. 53, 23 Stat. 24), a land office was established in Alaska, and provision made for disposing of the public mineral lands therein. The first proviso in that section is:

"That the Indians or other persons in said district shall not be disturbed in the possession of any lands actually in their use or occupation or now claimed by them but the terms under which such persons may acquire title to such lands is reserved for future legislation by Congress."

By "An act to repeal timber culture laws, and for other purposes," approved March 3, 1891 (c. 561, 26 Stat. 1095 [U. S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 1535), Congress extended the town site laws to Alaska, and provided for the sale of lands in this territory for purposes of trade and business; but it provided in section 14:

"That none of the provisions of the last two preceding sections of this act shall be so construed as to warrant the sale of any lands * * * to which the natives of Alaska have prior rights by virtue of actual occupation."

The homestead laws and the law for the location of rights of way for railroads were extended to Alaska by the act of Congress approved May 14, 1898, the seventh section of which, however, provides:

"That this act shall not apply to any lands within the limits of any * * * Indian, or other reservation unless such right of way shall be provided for by act of Congress" (ch. 299, 30 Stat. 412 [U. S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 15801).

And by the 27th section of the act of Congress approved June 6, 1900 (ch. 786), entitled "An act making further provisions for a civil government for Alaska, and for other purposes, (31 Stat. 330), it is again provided that "the Indians * * * shall not be disturbed in the possession of any lands now actually in their use or occupation."

United States v. Lynch (7 Alaska Reports 643, 644):

* * * the Indians of Alaska should not be disturbed in the possession of lands which on those dates were occupied, claimed, and used by them (sec. 8, act May 17 84, 23 Stat. 26; sec. 27, act June 6, 1906, 31 Stat. 336 (48 U. S. C. A., sec. 356 (U.S. Comp. St., sec. 5095); Heckman v. Sutter, (C. C. A.) 119 F. 83-88; Id. (C. C. A.) 128 F. 393).

In conclusion it may be mentioned that the Courts of Alaska also held that under the act of June 2, 1924, the Alaskan natives became citizens of the United States.

United States v. Lynch (7 Alaska Reports 572):

The Indians of the Tlinket tribe became citizens of the United States, in common with the native Indian tribes of the United States, under the Act of June 2, 1924 (8 U. S. C. A., sec. 3), which provided that all non-citizen Indians, born within the territorial limits of the United States, shall be citizens, and that the granting of citizenship shall not, in any manner, impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.


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