WE have, so far, only glanced at the most obvious of all the parallels between early colonial days in Alaska and in New Englandthe fact that early discoverers, fur traders and later colonists upon both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts had to deal, not with an empty and unpeopled continent but with one already inhabited, though not by any means ” settled ” in our Saxon sense. In both cases the real work of extending the frontier was not a mere peaceful penetration into an untenanted ” wilderness.” First corners found a proud and independent native people, with whom they must contend for possession of the land.
As in all eastern colonial narrative, so also in Alaska, the ofttimes tragic mask of the Indian, cast from the native matrix of the soil, emerges out of the dramatic background of old stories as a picturesque element, of some interest to travellers and students but too little considered by his white neighbors. His villages are practically all separate, his mode of life demands seasonal migration to summer fish camp and winter trap line. As the white men came in increasing numbers, both in New England and in Alaska, a desire for expansion back into the continent and a desire for village sites at favorable bays and river outlets naturally led settlers to adopt a more and more aggressive attitude toward the natives. But the natives were few in number when spread upon the vastness of this terrain, and after the first few years their influence upon the whites became almost negligible because there were so few real points of contact between them. Their modes of life, their thoughts, their customs and aims were far apart, their plane of living was dissimilar, their roots twisted back into a very different soil. But in the early days, ” as friend or spying enemy,” James Truslow Adams says, ” he was constantly in and out of the little villages as he is of the pages of the early records. Although there was, unluckily, little that the white man could teach him that was of any service, he, on the contrary, taught the colonists many a useful lesson. He showed them how and when to plant, trapped their game and gathered in their stock of furs, guided them through the almost trackless forest, and in a multitude of ways gave them knowledge of the land which they had entered and of the products it might yield.” We read a great deal in history about Indian Wars, but we don’t read half enough about Indian help and friendliness.
But cruelty and misunderstanding developed cruelty and misunderstanding here, as in New England. For twenty years after Bering’s first discoveries the fur hunters treated the natives to extremes of torture that proved “bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor.” Moving along the coast, from the first contact with the Aleuts to their next contact with the Thlingits and Haidas, the Russians found themselves facing a war-like people, capable of swift, vengeful and concerted action. There were reprisals and counter reprisals, just as in our eastern Indian wars. When the United States bought Alaska, the land was looked upon in governmental circles merely as another Indian Territory. In spite of Sumner’s high-sounding words in the Senate about the great blessing we were about to confer upon this God-forsaken country by extending to it our mild laws, no laws at all were enacted! The United States Army took over Alaska from Russia, ran up our flag, received the keys, and remained in nominal charge until 1870. ” The withdrawal of the remaining soldiers in 1877,” says an official report, ” was regarded by the few white residents of Alaska as a boon, especially to the native population who had suffered in many ways because of their presence.” From ’77 to ’79 there was no government of any description in Alaska, but late in ’78 trouble arose in Sitka between whites and the Sitka and Hoonah Thlingits, who outnumbered the settlers three to one. Notice of serious impending trouble was sent to Washington but brought no response; so an urgent appeal for help on behalf of the whites was made to the British Admiral at Victoria, who dispatched the Osprey at once, and probably by his swift action prevented the total destruction of Baranof’s once proud little city. In April ’79 came our own Alaska, and later the Jamestown under Captain Beardslee; and the Jamestown was the United States in this territory during the stirring period of Joe Juneau’s gold strike. One lone naval officer was all Alaska knew of U. S. government until 1884.
When Washington was yet a territory, with General Nelson A. Miles commanding The Department of the Columbia, ” in view of the fact that so little is known of the interior of the territory of Alaska, and that the conflicting interests between the white people and the Indians of the territory may in the near future result in serious disturbances between the two races,” Lieutenant Allen was dispatched on his quest into the inner land to learn: especially their disposition toward the Russian Government in the past and toward the United States Government in the past and at the present time, and toward the whites who are making their way into that region. You will further examine their (Indian) modes of life and their ways of communication from one part of the country to another, the amount and kinds of material of war in their possession, and from whence obtained. You will further obtain such information as may be practicable as to the character of the country or means of using and sustaining a military force, if one should be needed in the territory . . . and any other information which would be important and valuable to the military service. . . . In no case will you move in any section of the country where you cannot go without provoking hostilities or inciting natives to resistance.
Back of the cold and formal diction of this military order one senses the lurking danger, the copper blade pointed at this ” distant and uncertain expedition.” And small wonder, when no less than three Russian parties had been slain when setting out upon a similar investigation.
The Tanana Indians of the Interior had a bad reputation even among neighbor tribes. In 1882 Mr. Simms, the missionary, had started with a few natives up the Tanana in a canoe but had got no further than the mouth of the Kantishna, for the Yukon natives, through fear of the Tananatanas, had refused to go further. In 1883 Schwatka had heard from the upper Yukon that Tanana Indians were great fighters, were always opposed to any travel through their country, and were determined that no whites should ever enter their hunting grounds.
From_ all they had heard and seen, they certainly hadn’t a good report of the Russiansand how were they to know in what ways ” the Boston men ” differed from those of Baranof? Allen tells again and again in his account, of how very proud and suspicious the Inner Indians were in act, how scornful of his trials, his ignorance of the country. Allen succeeded in his quest, but the natives were not at all impressed by any majesty of the United States, through the efforts of his ragged struggling party. As one native said, of the first United States official whom he saw and who proved an unskilful cook, ” Why, the United States doesn’t even know how to bake biscuits!”
Geographically speaking, there are four quite distinct native peoples in Alaska, inhabiting our four major land divisions; and these native peoples have evidently come at different times with different back-grounds, and have reacted differently to white incursion and settlement. The first group, composed of Thlingits, Haidas and Tsimpseans, all live in Southeastern Alaska, though they are distinct tribes linguistically speaking. The Tsimpseans (who emigrated from British Columbia with Father Dun-can, that strange Yorkshire apostle to the natives) are settled farthest south at Metlakatla. Next to the north are the 500 Haidas, with only two towns, Kasaan and Hydaburg. The Thlingits beyond and around them are by far the most numerous of these Southeasterners, 4,000 in the last census, and have their villages at Yakutat, Klukwan, Haines, Juneau, Douglas, Hoonah, Sitka, Angoon, Killisnoo, Kake, Wrangell, Klawock, Ketchikan, and Saxman, all Thlingits talking the same language but each town keeping a different accent. This group occupies the section roughly corresponding to Alaska’s First Judicial Division.
The Eskimos occupy the far north and northwest and are more numerous than all the Indians put together. This section comprises most of Alaska’s Second Division. Then there are Aleuts, from Controller Bay across to the furthermost western island touching Russia; and most of our Fourth Division or Interior Indians are Athapaskan ” Tinneh,” (or ” Tana “the word is variously spelled) to the number of about 5,000. So you will see that we can no more speak about the natives of Alaska as one simple unit or question than we can speak so of the country’s climate or white people. All combined, the native races form a little less than half of Alaska’s present total population.
Whence did the Indians come? Some say from the South Seas. One scientist has pointed out that there is a marked resemblance between them and the Maoris, others a similarity between them and the Hawaiians. Some say they were first driven out on the Aleutian Islands by Mongol invasions. Another says, ” There is no doubt in my mind that the first emigrants crossed to America from Asia.” The Tsimpseans have a flood legend and tell that before the flood they lived in “a beautiful country with lovely sunshine, large trees, and gorgeous flowers.” Everything they say about it sounds as though they were describing a tropical Pacific Island, and some of their strange totem birds are said to have South Sea cousins. A friend, who is herself an officer of our Alaska Chapter of the D. A. R. and a May-flower descendant, is married to one of the outstanding leaders of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, William Paul, the attorney of Ketchikan. She writes:
I am not prepared to say with any authority where these people came from, racially. Certain ones clearly have the almond eyes and other facial characteristics of the Oriental; but in the cases that I have investigated, these can easily be explained by a more or less recent admixture with outside peoples. It is quite within reason that many Mongolians have been blown or drifted across the ocean. On the other hand, most of the high-caste families, which are likely to be pure blood, show almost a Greek profile, a clean-cut, beautiful grouping of features. Their own legends tell of many days marching across the tall grass; then there is the story among the Wrangell people of having come from under the Stikine Glacier; the main Wrangell family has a name that arose from the camp that was made after this migration, ” the upland owners,” while another group took the name of ” outside owners,” and the family name appears in Tongass (Ketchikan) , Sitka, Hoonah and Chilkat. There is a great deal of white intermixture all over south-eastern Alaska. Among the Haidas there are many bright red heads. How far back this mixture began I am unable to say; but it is a long way, because I have been told that in the ancient graves on the Queen Charlotte Islands, from which the Haidas originally came, long since deserted, the skulls have red hair. Among the Tsimpseans there is quite a bit of curly hair. Of course, in this modern day, there are some red heads produced by henna ! There seems to be no history of a longer subjugated people; that is, their legends tell of no people already occupying the land when they came into it.
These folk had a patriarchal system, that is, each village did not have a head chief except in time of war, when some chief (in Wrangell Chief Shakes, one of the Nani-ayi family) led them to battle. Otherwise each family was a unit to itself, in its own community house, and the father of the family was the chief. When he died, the name and title and property descended to his sister’s son. These family chiefs owned everything; all the young men trapped and hunted and fished and turned over everything to the chief, and it was his duty to guard the family honor. When the house became too crowded, some young man would build another, retaining his family name, and in time new families were originated in that way. In fact, that is how William Paul’s family got their name. They really belong to the Kiks-uddy family which has branches in many towns, but long ago there was a quarrel over a woman, and a part of the family moved out and built themselves temporary quarters of cedar bark, hence Tee (cedar) -Hit (house) -Ton (town), now shortened to Tee-ton.
The names stay within the family, and all within the family are of equal caste, although if they do something to disgrace the name they then become out-cast. There seem to be some families that are low caste just for the same reason that some white people are low in the social scaletoo shiftless or feckless to work for either financial security or honor! The villages located on the trade routes and near the fur supply were the strongest, most feared and most honoredSitka and Hoonah on the coast, due to fur-seal migrations; and Chilkat, Taku and Wrangell on the rivers. Certain families in each village had the ” big” names, some of the family names like Kok-won-tons, Kiks-uddy, Kuck-la-wady being present in many villages. There were other villages where there were no high-caste families, and these were looked down upon by the entire district.
There is considerable Russian intermixture at Sitka and Juneau and Hoonah, and in fact quite a large percentage of natives now living near old Russian settlements show traces of this ancestry. For, while it was distinctly to the interest of the Russ in Alaska, as to the French in Canada, that the Indian remain in his original hunter state, both French and Russian accepted the Indian as he was and intermarried freely. The French and Russians had none of that racial contempt for ” the heathen and the savage,” which Saxon settlers so often showed both here and in New Englandespecially when the Indian ” possessed lands coveted by the Saints of God!” In New England, the Fathers stoutly pushed out a dozen or so stiff Old Testament texts to hide behind, in warring with their tribal adversaries; but today (as recently in Fairbanks) a citizen merely says, “I refuse to serve on a committee with a native!”
When the early fear of the “savages” passed, dealings with them gradually sank to a lower ethical plane. Indians in Alaska today (except for Metlakatla) hold their land under the Act of Congress which says that Indians and others in the Territory shall not be disturbed in the possession or occupation of land used or claimed by them, but that the means of acquiring title shall be left for future legislation. As regards Indians, that legislation has just been passed in the last year or two; so that in all the original Indian towns there are certain tracts of land which are called Indian lands, but are not yet subdivided into lots. The only evidence of ownership is the building and fences. When an Indian family living next to a white man comes back from a summer’s work at the cannery or a winter’s trapping, it is a common thing to find that their fence has moved over a foot or two; there are instances
where fifteen and twenty feet have been stolen in small lots that way. These petty injustices are very common, and that is why the Native Brotherhood in Alaska have worked so hard to secure the right to hold deeds to their houses and lots, as well as full-time schools for their children, abolishment of the fish-trap, and the right to vote as citizens. Some of these questions are now partly solved for them.
More and more the intelligent natives come to realize that the white man will never think as they do, and therefore it is necessary for them to think as white men and act as white men, if the two peoples are to remain side by side in the same wide land. Otherwise, the Indian will remain a copper-tinted, sometimes lurid, slowly-fading background to the Alaskan story, as he was in that of New England. The Northwest Indian has always been a good trader, and he is willing to buy to-day the white man’s best. Perhaps he asks too much when he asks for justice. Who knows? Of New England’s founding it is said:
To have expected sympathy, understanding and justice in the situation as it developed in the seventeenth century, is asking too much, both of human nature and of the period. Indeed, it is questionable whether, in the competition between races of higher and lower civilization, when the former intrude upon the lands of the latter, justice in its strictest sense is ever possible.
If we truly wish to Americanize the Alaska Indians, then we must realize that to steal from helpless wards is unfair and that such dishonesty always reacts. And we have stolena nibble here, a nibble therewhenever we wanted what he had. We could do it because he hadn’t a political organization sufficiently strong for social defense, or an economic ability developed along lines that could compete favorably with ours. We destroyed caribou and seals and sea otters and whales, we brought the liquor traffic to him and the ” flu.” As the Turk said when reproached about the decimation of the Armenian race, “Where are the American Indians? ”
In Alaska, Indians today have rights as citizens only when they give up all tribal customs and merge with the body politic. Otherwise they are wards, without any rights. The Government by this policy has asked the natives to give up everything they have previously held precious, and “put in” with us. Can we blame them if more and more they are looking to this method as the only real solution of their problems, since only so can their voice be heard? In 1929 at Klawock, for the first time in the history of Alaska, an Indian community has undertaken to organize a legal municipal government.
What are the ” tribal customs ” our Alaskan Indians are being asked to give up in order to become American citizens, and what survival value have these customs? Like many of our own, some are excellent and some are not so good; and as among our white selves, there are some still backward communities and some very far advanced in civilization and outlook.
The Indian has traditional communal ideas of real estate very different from oursideas which he has tried to hold, but cannot any longer against the white man’s fixed laws. In early days white men “bought” Indian sites, such as Manhattan, for a few trinkets. Of course the Indians did not know what they were doing, because they themselves had no system of deeds or real property transfer; and so the parchments to which they put their mark were ” as ethically invalid as a child’s sale of his inheritance for a stick of candy!”
Slavery was perhaps the worst of the old customs, but slavery is something we ourselves gave up not so very long ago. In fact, Lady Simon in her authoritative book published in 1929, states that there are over four million slaves in the world, this moment! Lieutenant Allen found slavery still practiced among the Indians of the Copper River as late as ’85, but slavery among the Southeastern natives had generally ceased by 1890, and the last authentic case of which I have any knowledge was brought to light in 1898. Slaves were acquired either in war or by purchase, but mostly by raids to the south. That is why a Thlingit sees red when he is called a Siwash! ” Siwashes” to the Thlingits were merely the Flathead slaves they got in raids. These slaves were not badly treated, came and went with perfect freedom, hunted and fished. Butin the feasts incident to totem-pole raising or the building of a new community house, the builder acquired honor in proportion to the number of slaves he could afford to sacrifice, and they were dropped (sometimes alive) into the hole in which the totem pole or the corner posts of the house were placed. Sometimes slaves were ransomed, sometimes they escaped with-out ransom. In the latter case the “unredeemed name ” follows down to his descendants, who conceivably may not know their ancestor’s history. On one occasion a rather prominent man in another village made an insulting remark about William Paul (or Shgindy, his Indian name) which his stepfather overheard.
“Long ago,” he said, simply but with profound effect, ” Shgindy’s grandfather had a slave, and that slave’s name was the same as your name. He ran away, but he never redeemed his honor by sending back the ransom.”And that closed the incident decisively!
Father Jette of Tanana, that ripe old scholar descended from a noble French family of Quebec, has commented at length upon the absolute democracy of the Athapascan Tinneh, our Interior Indians of Alaska. He found in his long life-work here, both as priest and ethnologist, that “public opinion alone governed.” Among the southeastern tribes there is a very rigid and extensive caste system based both upon family prestige and personality. Frances Paul tells me :
“One has to be born high caste, but he has also to achieve it. The oldest son of a man’s sister was his heir, as a usual thing; but if a younger nephew displayed more ability, he became by common consent the heir to the name and property. One of the big reasons for a so-called potlatch was to elevate such heirs to their caste; it was the custom to pierce the ear for each feast, and my husband’s father had four holes in his ear, representing four feasts his mother’s father gave before he reached an age to put a stop to it. This grandfather gave twelve feasts in all. High-caste children could marry only within their caste; for that reason most families are related all through the villages, in the search to find a husband or wife of equal caste.
” A low-caste family might originate from the marriage of a slave into even a high-caste family; that did not elevate the slave, but lowered the high caste.”
This constant stress upon the stain of serfdom, upon blood, rank, achievement, and family honor, in all the Indian tales I’ve heard, reminds me of nothing quite so much as the purely personal aspects of our own early Frankish days of feudalism, developed in the Dark and Middle Ages of Europe. These people have known a somewhat similar social system, the two great differences being that serfs or slaves did not belong to the land here, and that descent among the Indians was traced back on the mother’s side, interminably, instead of through the father’s family.
A chief among the Indians does not inherit his position. It comes by merit, as he exhibits qualities of distinction, and discernment and good sense are his best qualifications for office. I have heard a story of a chief who took two missionaries, with his own leading villagers, to a great council. On the return trip the war canoe with thirty-five men in it began to labor in the heavy sea. One little missionary weighing only about a hundred pounds, sitting in the bow, called to the other, a man weighing over two hundred seated in the stern, to pray. The Indian chief raised his paddle in the airthe signal to wait and cried out: “You pray! Big man paddle!”There’s real leadership for you.
The illicit liquor of the natives is known as hootchinoo, and it and its effects are not to be trusted, for white men who sample it call the stuff ” volcano juice! ” But in judging the matter of contraband trade here, we whites have not a very clear record ourselves. Medicine men and witchcraft are other phases of the ” old customs ” which, with slavery, it is well to see pass, for much of this was bigoted and cruel.
These people carry far in totem symbol their conviction of a life in all nature. Like the Egyptians, the Indian seems to brood a great deal upon a future existence and takes great interest in genealogy, to which he erects his totems crowned first of all with the symbol of his mother’s family. I have myself an Indian charm which I greatly prize, given me by a very ancient Indian woman of Fairbanks, one of the wisest and kindliest of friends. I was starting on a long journey and ” Grandma ” came to me, bent and brown, and put a little package in my hand.
” You keep him. You good girl. You come back.”
” What is it, Grandma? ” I asked, looking down curiously at the beaded strip of moose hide, fringed at one end and in the other end an insert of a worn, stained, crooked tooth. ” What is this tooth, and why shall I come back if I take it? Is it a story of your people? Tell me.”
My old friend did not usually speak of her people’s ancient beliefs, for they are very sacred to her. But the moment was pregnant, since we were parting for no one knew how long and we had been fast friends. After a hesitation, at last she said: ” My mother give him. My mother mother give him. Long time. Maybe before Russ man come. He one porcupine tooth. Porcupine always take care him-self, even with big brown bear. You take him, you take care self, even with big brown bear. You come back.”
When people tell me there’s no warmth of friend-ship possible between white and red, I open up my treasure chest and show them Grandma’s precious token. I think a porcupine tooth is a better ” luck charm” than a rabbit’s foot, for rabbits run away from ” big brown bear “but a ” porky” always puts up a fight! I think there’s better fortune in bristling than in running.
The Indians all over Alaska are great sticklers for etiquette, and everything must be done according to form and custom, with all the proper observance. Only those who know and follow this, get on well with natives, ” Face ” is as important to an Indian as to an Oriental, and must be saved at any cost. One of the most characteristic old customs is the potlatch, which the missionaries are trying hard to abolish, for they say it needlessly impoverishes the natives. But the custom is rooted very deep and is not likely soon to pass.
Thriftthe disposition to lay up to-day for tomorrow’s necessityseems to be a very late trait to develop in human consciousness, and many of the most sophisticated members of white nations are still quite as incapable of real thrift as are the Tanana Indians! The desire to possess only that one may give away, can still be found among these primitive people, and by potlatch they dispose of excess possessions. It’s a Carnegie-like plan, to win praise for themselves and escape the cares of to0 much wealth, in one magnificent gesture. And yet we praise the canny Andrew but blame the poor Indian. Pride in the ability to give back even more to his people than he has received, can still be seen in the native pot-latch. These folk are stone-age communists and practice religiously the old group-pattern which they preach, and there is no article of our Christian faith these Indians can better understand than that ” it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The potlatch is a matter of pride, of saving face, of establishing prestige; and, because marriage is so strictly regulated among the Thlingits by totem, when William Paul’s mother was brought back as a small baby from Victoria by her mother, a potlatch simply had to be given and a totem erected, ” to wipe out the stain of having a white father.”
Tattooing is a custom of the Haidas but is reserved for high caste, though it has been adopted by the Thlingits who live next to them; but the farther north one goes the less there is of this, and none, I believe, among the Chilkats. Tsimpsean women of rank used to wear a labrette of bone or shell, on dress occasions. For one does wrong to think of these people in their primitive state as continually taken up with the quest for food. Like the Eskimos, they kept themselves fed and sheltered (when their natural resources are not tampered with) and had plenty of time left for leisure and the artsmore time than we in our too busy civilization. Leisure time was taken up, as it should be, with social life and educationteaching taboo, folk way and legend to the younger generationlearning old tales of the supermen of their people, heroes, demons and gods. Drawing, etching, carving of totems and much decorating had to be done, for the totem mark must be on everything. Art, literature, and religion came close home and were very real, in the old tribal life.
Allen tells of the copper bullets of the Atria, their bows and arrows of ” tempered ” birch, all skilfully hand made; and I have a fine set of arrows done by Chief Thomas’ son, with six different shapes of steel and bone heads for different purposes of killing or merely stunning. One finds silversmiths at Sitka, and coppersmiths among the Chilkats near Lynn Canal; and though there was no knowledge of metal tempering, they were good engravers. Before the white man came, copper was their main metal, as it was found in nuggets on the White and Copper Rivers or pried out of matrices. Long copper knives are still common along the Tanana, and are unpleasantly deadly. Embroidery with porcupine quills is an old, nearly a lost, art. The Chilkat blankets are as distinctive as the Navajo, but little known and rare. Made of the wool-like under fur of the all-white Rocky Mountain goat of Southeast-ern Alaska, they have something the effect of Navajo blankets in texture, but the color harmonies are entirely different, being black from hemlock, flat yellow from a lichen dye, and a pale bluish green from copper stain, the total result being grayish, soft and truly exquisite. Woven by slow laborious process on hand looms and with great ceremonyfor it is a religious rite and one must fast for itthis art is rapidly passing with civilization, although a fairest flower of American life.
All over Alaska one may find fine basketry and wicker work, but from furthermost Attu of the Aleutian chain come the most lovely, rare, and sought-for of them all. Few of the old basket weavers are now left on Attu, for there is little food upon these treeless islands, and disease and semi-starvation have done the work which the Russians left off when they decimated the Aleuts. Made of the finest straw, woven in rich color, these Attu baskets are the gems of the collector’s fancy; but few whites go so far to find them. For twice the Attu price you may pick up good baskets at Dutch Harbor, if you are lucky, when the Nome boat puts in. But by the time the few remaining baskets reach Southeastern Alaska and the tourist shops; you may have to pay as high as two hundred dollars for a fine specimen. But it will be well worth that, both in painstaking toil and in great rarity.
Yakutat baskets are done in slender spruce roots and vegetable dyed grasses so that, when old, genuine Yakutats take on a mellow and almost Etruscan color.
In Southeastern Alaska the women make a holiday picnic of root gathering for their baskets, taking a lunch along and all the children. The roots are peeled, scraped, boiled, and then left in water to soak, after which they are scraped with a clam shell until glossy and smooth. The Haidas make grass baskets and grass hats for dances and potlatch. The best Interior baskets are of birch bark, pliable and tough, the older ones embroidered in a solid design of porcupine quill, exceptionally fine. The Lower Yukon baskets are large and coarse, of salty sedges woven like raffia but serviceable, and often decorated with a dab of fur or with an animal tooth or bit of old ivory worked in as a handle. Such art-craft is a racial characteristic.
How much of all this native culture is to remain? Will the natives of Alaska acquire only useful white learning from us, such as the principles of correct food and sanitation? Or will they lose their own strong traits only to borrow of our worst and weakest? Will they attend our schools, for which they now are asking, only to come out of them listless, sullen, maladjusted to the world? Or will they really learn to become useful American citizens? Will they follow old chiefs in the old tribal potlatch way, or will they follow younger leaders into new and socially constructive ways? The Alaskan native is a primitive but not, today, a” savage ” and ethnically his stock is high. Will the ownership of land, for which these people are so pathetically hungry, prove a blessing, or will all those past millennia of communal land-holding refuse to be abridged in one generation? Can the tribal mind take on the Saxon pattern, and if so, how and when? Or must it still be protected from its own inexperience? These are some of the problems which cast dark shadows into dusky corners of Uncle Sam’s attic.
Let us open doors, let us encourage peculiar gifts and native crafts, let us tear down barriers of prejudice and old distrust. Above all, let a proud and highly-civilized people deal justly with a proud and primitive people, co-dwelling in our midstdeal justly both as a nation and as individuals. We are of a great brotherhood, a human brotherhood. We are blood brothers of the same wanderers’ totem and clan. Is this Alaska ours, or is it theirs? Does it belong to both of us, or to whichever of us can use the land more justly? They came here, as did we, from another coast, the whence and where unknown. We know something of our own whence and where, but both of us as races are alike the guests of the Great Country. To earlier corners than ourselves we owe some courtesy, surely. To ourselves, as more advanced scholars in the school of civilization, we surely owe the dignity and courtliness of true noblesse oblige.
Alaska is today a white man’s land and will be so, increasingly. But we must prove our right to it, as we must prove our whiteness, by our acts. If we talk whitebut act yellow-then we shall lose our own just claim to go up and possess the Great Country.