AHS Blog  |  49 History

Tenakee’s Superior Packing Company

Date Posted: December 4, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By: Vicki Wisenbaugh

Bob Pegues

Note: Tenakee Historical Collection received a grant from the Alaska Historical Society’s Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative to catalog a collection of materials from Tenakee Springs’ Superior Packing Co. All of the photos in this post come from Tenakee Historical Collection. 

Bob Pegues was a pillar of the  Chichagof Island  community of Tenakee Springs for over 40 years. He was part owner and year round caretaker of the ruins of the Superior Packing Company cannery property. In his retirement years, Bob undertook research for a book about the cannery, its history and the complex financial dealings of the owners.   Bob’s efforts were cut short by cancer and his files were bequeathed in a scrambled heap to the Tenakee Historical Collection.

Cannery employees at work.

Thanks to a grant from the Alaska Historical Society, the Tenakee Historical Collection was able to sort out that pile of paper, photos and publications to make the information more accessible for future research.

Sorting and filing Bob’s research offered tantalizing glimpses of the past century, when fish traps and rapacious plunder of salmon streams were the norm, and the territorial authorities were  occupied with  violations of the Alaska Bone Dry Act and acts of “unlawful co-habitation” as well as assault and suspected murder.   Bob’s collection of original documents, photos, articles, letters and interview transcripts are now safely stored in the archives of the Tenakee Historical Collection museum, and ready for further exploration by anyone with a keen interest in the cannery era.

Superior Packing ca 1918.

Superior Packing, ca 1921-1928.

The cannery had segregated housing, like most canneries of the era.

The children of the cannery’s owner, John Tenneson, were the models for the company’s labels.





The Whitney-Fidalgo Cannery on Ship Creek, Anchorage

Date Posted: December 4, 2017       Categories: 49 History Alaska's Historic Canneries

By: Mark LaRiviere

Note: The following was written in the Fall of 1976. No salmon canneries remain on Ship Creek today.

Below the hustle-bustle of downtown Anchorage, at the mouth of Ship Creek, is the only remaining salmon cannery in upper Cook Inlet. At one time there were two canneries in Anchorage and three in the upper Inlet area, but the days of small, owner operated canneries in Alaska are over and only the Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods, Inc. Anchorage cannery remains in upper Cook Inlet.

This cannery is a direct link to a large part of Alaska’s past – the salmon canning days. Starting in Southeast Alaska in 1878 and growing to a peak in 1936 with a pack of 8.4 million cases, the salmon canning industry has had a powerful impact on the economic and sociological development of Alaska as a territory and as a state. Today the industry still plays an important role in the Alaskan economy, providing summertime employment for people from remote area and market for fisherman to earn the money they need to sustain them throughout the remainder of the year. Many of these peoples live in the bush year-round or are Natives in remote villages and settlements who fish for subsistence.

It was a mix of people such as these that I met and worked with during three summers of employment at the Anchorage cannery; 1974, 1975, and 1976. Mostly set-net fisherman, they fished the upper Cook Inlet shorelines, intertidal areas and Susitna River delta. Fishing in 25 to 30 foot tidal fluctuations and murky brown water they tended their nets with outboard powered skiffs, delivering their catch to the cannery or to the shallow draft scows and tenders that operate in the inshore areas of upper Cook Inlet.

The catch from these fisherman is canned at the Anchorage cannery. First built in 1931, and operated by H.J. Emard as Emard Packing Company, Inc., it survived a period of which I know little of its history. Johnny Bumanglag, the fish house foreman, and Joe, the present-day retort operator, are still working from the 1930’s when Emard first starting canning salmon there. In those days the F/V Henry J. served as a tender to upper Cook Inlet fishermen, taking out the scows in the spring, picking up in the summer and returning them to the cannery in the fall.

Ship Creek, the waterfrontage of the cannery, is not too aptly named since few ships (or boats) can operate in a channel that fluctuates from 1 to 31 feet in 12 hours or less. Only flat bottom vessels or vessels with hulls strong enough to withstand several beachings during the course of a visit can “tie up” to the cannery dock. Large flat-bottomed vessels are often brought into the mouth of the creek and unloaded next to a concrete ship that is permanently dug into the Terminal Yards fill at the mouth of Ship Creek.

Processing herring at the Ship Creek facility in 1972. Photo courtesy Dexter Lorance.

Fish arrives via rail to the Whitney-Fidalgo cannery in Anchorage in 1972. Photo courtesy Dexter Lorance.

The cannery is a collection of rather jostled and dilapidated old buildings and trailers that show their age and the fact they suffered through the Alaska earthquake of 1964. Inside the canning line warehouse, the can shop normally on the second floor of canneries, rests at the same level as the canning line, a result of the floor collapsing beneath it during the earthquake and cannery economics dictating it to be left there as long as it worked. No wonder one can walk along a wall in the warehouse and come upon a window in the wall whose top edge is below the waistline.

A small group of people live on the premises, similar to remote area canneries that are complete settlements in themselves, but the majority of workers commute from within the city. The machinist crew, Filipinos and office workers are brought in from the lower 48, and rest of the crew is hired from the local work force. Some of them have been working canneries for many years, such as Minnie who lives in Wasilla and commutes to work, often staying and sleeping in her car when working into the wee hours of the night.

Squeezed between Elmendorf AFB, Terminal Yards and downtown Anchorage you can almost hear the cannery breathe a sigh of relief to be connected on a waterway to the open ocean waters. The city is moving in all around. Much of the property the cannery is located upon is on old fill from early day excavation projects in surrounding areas. Jutting into this fill and coming right up to the cannery road, is little estuarine bay of vital importance to the cannery. Along the edges of this small embayment are skids upon which the fish scows are placed in the wintertime to protect them from the freeze up of upper Cook Inlet waters. The scows are placed out in the spring at strategic locations on the east side of Cook Inlet from Boulder Point to Fire Island and on the west side from Tyrone to West Foreland. The fisherman, notified of openings by radio and written notice, net and recover the salmon and deliver their catch to the scows. There they are covered with wetted burlap to keep them cool and protected from the wind, sun and seagulls. The fisherman return to their camps and a tender from the Anchorage cannery comes on a regular schedule to pick up the fish. All five species of Pacific salmon ae caught in upper Cook Inlet with reds and pinks making up the majority of the catch.

Counts are kept of the number of each species from each bin and a fish ticket is written up for the fisherman registered to that bin. Back in the cannery office the fisherman will be credited with an amount equal to the number of each species landed, times the average weight of that species that week as determined by a negotiating board or an Alaska Department of Fish and Game sampling crew.

The scows are the only logical low cost way to service the fish camps along each side of upper Cook Inlet. Requiring little maintenance, each scow can accommodate the fish from several individual fish camps along that stretch of the shoreline and minimize the time the tender needs to pick up the fish. These fisherman have banded together into the Upper Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Association and it is this group that Whitney-Fidalgo officials must bargain with each year for the prices and contracts to fish. Other processors compete for the fish in the area, with Kenai being the most popular alternative landing site.

During the peak of the run it is not uncommon for the F/V Totem (the modern day replacement of the Henry J) to return to the cannery loaded to the brim with pink, red and silver salmon. Often times having 20,000 or more fish in its holds, the Totem will bring in two such loads a week. This is when the people in the canneries earn their salt. With no holding facilities for this mass of fresh product, except for a few chilled seawater bins that act as temporary storage silos, these fish must be canned.

The machinery has got to operate correctly and the people must work until the job is done. If the cannery superintendent could find robots to man the machines at time like these he would be satisfied. Instead they often bend to the fact that real human people work at the cannery and they often knock off work just after midnight to allow the cannery crew some sleep (often averaging less than 6 hours) before starting up the cannery again the next morning to can more fish. The times of working past midnight do not usually last more than 8-10 days at a stretch and thank heaven! You can only like salmon, working and making money just so much. Then there is your body to consider.

The cannery becomes a world unto itself. Those of us that lived there would seldom wander even up into downtown Anchorage – less than one mile away. The entire plant and its operations became dependent upon the outside connection of the ALASKA railroad, delivering the tin ends and can bodies and taking away the still cooking pallets of canned salmon. The warehouse of the cannery is so small and lacking in floor space that if the pack was not removed daily by rail cars and new ones spotted at the doors, the pallets would be stacked on the floor and this accumulation could shut down the cannery operations within 24 hours.

The effluent from the cannery operations is discharged into Ship Creek. Thousands of pounds of offal – everything on the fish that is not canned or salted – is ground up and mixed with water to form a slurry. This slurry is piped to below the mean low water mark on Ship Creek to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s effluent permit and released. There the ever-hungry, opportunistic seagulls find it.

In the summer, on low tides one can always tell at a glance whether or not the cannery is operating by the presence or absence of large numbers of seagulls alighting on Ship Creek just below the cannery, floating downstream bobbing and ducking for the salmon offal and screaming, screeching and fighting amongst themselves. The gulls, mostly California gulls, roost upon the mud flats below downtown Anchorage and feed upon the cannery effluent. Streams of gulls capitalize upon this food, forming a steady circle from the mouth of the creek up to the discharge pipe.

It is quite a spectacular sight – I have seen feeding congregations of 5,000 or more seagulls below the cannery. Some of the gulls are huge and will attack unsuspecting humans! I have two documented cases of seagulls attacking people in the Terminal Yards area. My guess is more people have had the experience, but are afraid to reveal it for the sake of ridicule. Who has ever heard of such a thing – dive bombing seagulls, noiselessly heading for your head? Often times they drop a little package as you dissuade them to leave. Alaska is full of animals that will attack, but seagulls – without provocation?

As sudden as they start, the salmon runs in upper Cook Inlet start to diminish. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game begins to limit fishing time, catch per unit of effort decreases and the fisherman cease fishing. It is more profitable, or less expensive for them to resume other activities. They close up the fish camp, move back to the city or the bush and wait until next season. Life at the cannery continues with the necessary clean up, machinery maintenance, final shipments of canned salmon and recovery and storage of the scows for the winter.

The last week of August is traditionally the time when the scows are towed back to the cannery dock by the tender, moved at high tide by the beach gang in a small runabout to the foot of the skids, and winched up by the old authentic looking steam engine. There they are secured and left for the winter. The tender leaves and goes south for the winter before the freeze up as does the cannery crew. The buildings are boarded up to await the next spring and beginning of another salmon canning season.





Alaska Pacific University becomes a United Methodist Historic Site

Date Posted: October 4, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Larry Hayden

United Methodist Historic Site No. 534 plaque to be installed at Alaska Pacific University. Image courtesy Larry Hayden.

Alaska Pacific University will become a United Methodist Historic Site with the unveiling of a plaque on Friday October 6th at Grant Hall on campus at 1:15 p.m. followed by a reception, for which an RSVP is appreciated at 333-5050.

Jesse Lee Home alumnus Rev. P. Gordon Gould, an Aleut from Unga, initiated the effort to establish a university in Alaska in 1948 with the intent of training local people for leadership in local employment. Alaskan communities and businesses provided great sums of money along with the Methodist Church to kick-start the educational institution that continues today on a track to become a Tribal University connected with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Alaska Pacific University is rooted in the Methodist Tradition. In the 1950s during the preliminary building of the campus, Bishop A. Raymond Grant, based in Portland, had administrative control of Alaskan Methodist happenings and the main building is named for him. The Dormitory across the road was named for Rev. Gould.

Since classes started in 1960 hundreds of students have experienced a wide-ranging curriculum for personal development and business acumen.

The United Methodist Church recognizes the contributions that Alaska Methodist University/Alaska Pacific University has made during the past 57 years and has designated the campus as United Methodist Historic Site No. 534. An Historic Site is a location or structure associated with an event, development, or personality deemed of strong historic significance in the history of an Annual Conference, such as Alaska.

Alaska has two other United Methodist Historic Sites: #350 for the Jesse Lee Home in Unalaska, and #368 for the First United Methodist Church in Ketchikan.

This designation will alert United Methodist travelers and others around the globe that APU would be an appropriate place to visit, and support.





Cook Inlet Historical Society announces 2017-2018 Lecture Series

Date Posted: October 2, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Bruce Parham

150 Years:  Defining Moments in the Great Land
Cook Inlet Historical Society 2017-2018 Lecture Series

(Free and Open to the Public)

Left to right: Robert S. Chase; William H. Seward (Secretary of State); William Hunter; Mr. Bodisco; Baron de (Eduard) Stoecki (Russian diplomat); Charles Sumner; and Frederick W. Seward. ASL-P20-181, http://vilda.alaska.edu. Courtesy of Alaska State Library—Historical Collections. A print from the painting by Emanuel Leutze showing the Alaska Purchase.

 

Cook Inlet Historical Society 2017-2018 Lecture Series
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.
Third Thursday of the month (September – November and January – May)
Summer Solstice Cemetery Tour (Thursday, June 21, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, 7th and Cordova Streets, enter at Bagoy Gate)

The theme of 2017-2018 Cook Inlet Historical Society lecture series is 150 Years:  Defining Moments in the Great Land. This year marks the sesquicentennial of the Treaty of Cession between Russia and the United States (1867-2017).  Over the past century and a half, Alaska has undergone remarkable change.  Its Native population has persisted and thrived; settlers have arrived from around the world; the culture and economy of the territory and then the state has transformed several times.  Throughout the fall and spring of 2017-2018, the Cook Inlet Historical Society will present lectures on some of the topics that have defined Alaska’s history since the cession.

 

 

 

September 21, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker:  Mike Dunham, Award Winning Author and Editor and Reporter (retired), Alaska Dispatch News
Topic: The Man Who Bought Alaska:  William H. Seward and The Man Who Sold Alaska:  Tsar Alexander II of Russia

Longtime Alaska reporter Mike Dunham has written a pair of short biographies that tell the stories of the most important diplomats in the 19th century—Tsar Alexander II of Russia and American Secretary of State William Henry Seward.  He will discuss the lives of the men who arranged the United States’ acquisition of Russian America in 1867.

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)
Topic: Treaty of Cession:  Causes and Consequences:  A Panel Discussion

UAA Distinguished Professor Emeritus Stephen Haycox will moderate a panel discussion with Russian historians about why Russian America was sold to the United States and three indigenous speakers who will examine the consequences of the 19th century Americanization of Alaska and the later Cold War.  Participants include Sergei Grinev of St. Petersburg, Russia; Ilya Vinkovetsky of Simon Fraser University of British Columbia; Andrei Znamenski of the University of Memphis, Tennessee; archivist/historian Joaqlin Estus (Tlingit); and Andrey Khalkachan, a Native of eastern Siberia.

Thursday, November 16, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Katherine L. Arndt, Alaska and Polar Regions Bibliographer and Curator of Rare Books and Maps, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Topic: Russia’s American Colonies in 1867:  A Baseline

Though the Russian-American Company (RAC) was ostensibly a trading firm, as an imperially chartered monopoly it had many non-commercial responsibilities in Russia’s North American colonies, including medical care, education, support of the Orthodox Church, and assistance to company pensioners.  With departure of the RAC following the transfer of Alaska to US ownership, any Company-supported institutions were significantly crippled or entirely swept away.  It took time before they were restored or replaced under US rule.

No December Lecture

Thursday, January 18, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Rex Wilheim, President and COO of the North West Company International, Inc., owner of the Alaska Commercial Company
Topic: The Alaska Commercial Company, 150 Years of Operation

The Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) began mercantile services in Alaska within months of the Treaty of Cession.  Early company activities included fur trading, banking, shipping, and building infrastructure as well as operating an exclusive 20-year lease of the lucrative Pribilof Islands fur seal industry.  This presentation details the 150 years of ACC operations in Alaska.

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Bethany Buckingham Follett, Curator, Wasilla Museum and Visitor’s Center
Topic: Wasilla at 100:  Where Mining, Agriculture, and Commerce Converge

Wasilla was founded in 1917 when the Alaska Railroad intersected the Carle Wagon Road that headed into the Willow Creek Mining District.  Miners were supplied by merchants in Wasilla and a thriving community emerged.  Well-known members of the early community, how their history shaped Wasilla, and the activities of the centennial celebration that brought these stories and history to life will be discussed.

Thursday, March 15, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: JBER Command Staff
Topic: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Mission and Units:  Why We Are Here

Alaska’s strategic military position is based on geography.  Alaska is an ideal hub for the great “Over-the-Pole” circle routes connecting the Orient with Europe and North America.  JBER’s location is much closer to the Orient and Europe than many parts of the contiguous United States, and provides an ideal staging for a rapid military response capability today, just as it did during World War II and the Cold War.  In this lecture, JBER Command Staff will discuss the strategic geopolitical importance of Alaska today and in the past.

Thursday, April 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker:  Tim Bradner, economics and natural resources writer for Alaska professional and general-interest publications, with a specialty in energy and oil and gas
Topic: $141 billion since 1977!  Where’d all the money go?  A historical perspective of Alaska’s petroleum industry and state government

Mr. Bradner will review the history and development of Alaska’s petroleum industry from its early days until the present.  He will discuss the interconnections between the industry and the development of Alaska’s state government and economy.  He will speak to current problems and challenges facing both the state and industry as the worldwide energy industry appears to enter a period of surplus and lower prices.

Thursday, May 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Panelists:  TBA
Topic: ANILCA:  A discussion about how the “Alaska Lands Act” of 1980 came to be, what it contains, and how it has shaped Alaska

This concluding lecture will discuss the federal government’s role in managing public land in Alaska.  The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) signed into law in 1980, was an achievement in the environmental movement and an important domestic achievement in the environmental movement and an important domestic achievement for the Carter administration, according to some.  Others view it as federal overreach and a law that has continued to hinder Alaska’s economic development.  Whatever your perspective, few would disagree that ANILCA profoundly transformed the management of Alaska’s public lands.  The panel discussion features a diversity of analysis as we come to grips with, and better understand, this landmark legislation.

Thursday, June 21, 2018 (Summer Solstice, 7:00 p.m.)
Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, 7th & Cordova Streets (Bagoy Gate)
24th Annual John Bagoy Memorial Cemetery Tour                                  

Hosts: Audrey and Bruce Kelly

Following annual tradition, Audrey and Bruce Kelly will select a number of gravesites prominent residents buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery for a fascinating historical review of our community in a different era.  Please enter the Cemetery at Bagoy Gate—7th and Cordova Streets.  There will be a printed souvenir brochure.
 





Alaska Out of the Vault: Examining the Treaty of Cession through Unexpected Objects

Date Posted: July 18, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Anjuli Grantham

A puffin skin parka. An Alutiiq whaling lance. A can of salmon from Klawock. A mountain howitzer and artillery shell. These are not the kind of artifacts that immediately bring to mind the Treaty of Cession, like William Seward’s cape or Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting, Purchase of Alaska, might, for example. Nonetheless, as I started researching and producing Alaska Out of the Vault, a podcast that examines Alaska in the decades around the Treaty of Cession, I was more interested in discussing what was occurring in Alaska— not in Washington, DC— and what themes and transitions were afoot rather than the big, iconic moments on which we tend to focus our attention (ahem, Alaska Day).

Photo courtesy Anjuli Grantham

While there are countless compelling objects and stories that relate truths about Alaska in the 1800s, I selected these objects based on the broad, and hopefully unexpected, stories that they communicate.

The mountain howitzer became a medium for the story of the US Army in Alaska in 1868-1870 and the transitions  that occurred both at Fort Kenay (sic), the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, and within the lives of Vladimir and Evgenia Stafeef (alternate spellings abound), an Estonian employed by the Russian-American Company and his Dena’ina wife.

When the US purchased Alaska, the nation was amidst Reconstruction. It was determined that Alaska would be managed as a military district until Congress created legislation for local civil government (which took another seventeen years, by the way). Alaska became part of the Military Division of the Pacific, and Army units were sent to Kenai, Kodiak, the Pribilofs, Wrangell, Sitka and Tongass to open posts. But Battery F didn’t make it to the old Russian trading post called Nicholas Redoubt when or how they intended. While sailing near Port Graham the Torrent hit a reef, sending the ship down and the crew, soldiers, and their families to the beach. They salvaged three of the four mountain howitzers with which they traveled before being rescued and spending the winter in Kodiak.

The next year, 1869, they made it to the trading post, which was about a mile from the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, according to anthropologist Dr. Alan Boraas. For this episode, I spoke with Dr. Boraas about Dena’ina interactions with Russian fur traders and the US Army troops. Moreover, several primary sources from Fort Kenay are shared, including one that details when the American yard was adopted as the standard unit for trade, and an evocative letter from Vladimir Stafeef, in which he recounts his indecision about paths forward in the new American Alaska. Finally, retired state archaeologist Dave McMahan recounts the 2008 recovery of materials from the Torrent shipwreck, including the mountain howitzer on exhibit at the Alaska State Museum.

The Alutiiq whaling lance with Cyrillic letters is a lens to consider a relatively unknown Alaska Native whaling tradition and to explore how Alutiiq, Yankee, and Russian whalers interacted with one another and the so-called Kodiak Grounds, which corresponds to the Gulf of Alaska, in the 19th century.

In an interview with archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall, we discuss the archaeology and history of the Alutiiq whaling tradition. In the late prehistoric period through the late 19th century, Alutiiq whalers were shamans. They used talisman, magical practices, and mummy fat mixed with monkshood and then smeared on slate lances to execute the hunt. Examples of these lances are exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, Baranov Museum, and Alutiiq Museum. With historian Ryan Jones, we learn how whales were central to the economy of Russian America and Russian-American Company control of Alutiiq labor. Whalers had to give ½ of every whale to the company, which then distributed the materials and meat to outposts and hunting camps. Jones describes how the incursion of Yankee whalers impacted Native whaling and belatedly inspired the Russian Empire to finance its own commercial whaling venture. The Russian-Finnish Whaling Company was mostly a failure, and the tense relations among American whalers, Russian officials, and Native villages did not presage the diplomacy of the Treaty of Cession. Regardless, Americans came to use Alaska’s natural resources on a large scale for perhaps the first time, as whale oil lit cities and lubricated gears in New England.

Unangan puffin skin parka, circa 1880s. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Museum.

A puffin skin parka with elaborately embroidered hems and cuffs elucidates the work of Alutiiq and Unangan women in Russian America. This parka, also exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, was collected by the surgeon of the USS Resaca, a Navy ship sent to Alaskan waters while the crew convalesced from an outbreak of yellow fever. Coincidentally, the vessel arrived in Sitka in time for the transfer ceremony, where it stayed until January of 1868. In this episode, I not only examine possible ways that an Alutiiq or Unangan garment made its way to Sitka, but what the puffin parka says about the internal economy of Russian America.

Russians were dependent on the labor and goods of the Alutiiq and Unangan to produce sea otter pelts for international markets and to feed, clothe, and pay those incorporated within the Russian American colonies. The work of women was central to this. Elderly, infirm, and adolescent men were sent to puffin rookeries to snare a company-established quota of birds. Women then prepared and sewed the skins into parkas, which were used as a form of currency by the Russian-American Company.

For this episode, I spoke with Alaska State Museum conservator Ellen Carrlee about the difficulties in attributing the origin of this parka, historian Katherine Arndt about the use of Alutiiq and Unangan labor in Russian America, and Alutiiq skin sewer Susie Malutin about the Alutiiq skin sewing tradition. The show ends in Sitka, with a triumphant news report about the US purchase, although it is quite clear that these American newcomers had little idea about the complex and tragic economic system that they were eager to supplant.

Finally, through a can of Klawack (sic) Brand salmon, we learn of the dramatic transitions within Southeast Alaska spurred by the industrialization of Alaska’s salmon industry, and how Senator Charles Sumner’s vision for Alaska’s maritime resources came true. In 1878, the North Pacific Trading and Packing Co processed the first can of salmon in Alaska in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island. Previously, the site of the cannery was known as Hamilton’s Fishery, named after Scottish proprietor George Hamilton, who had come to Southeast Alaska in the years immediately following the US purchase and married a Haida woman.

Photo courtesy Kathy Peavey

In this episode, we hear from Fred Hamilton, the 96 year old grandson of the founder of Alaska’s first cannery. We learn about the sophisticated methods that Tlingit people employed to harvest salmon and manage salmon rivers from anthropologists Dr. Steve Langdon. Dr. Langdon’s research shows that Tlingit management of the Klawock fishery persisted for a time following its commercialization. From Dr. Dennis Demmert, we learn how life changed for the Tlingit of Prince of Wales Island when the cash economy began to pervade the area. We also hear the words of Senator Charles Sumner, who advocated for the Alaska Purchase and pointed to Alaska’s marine resources as a great boon for the nation.

Over these four episodes, then, we learn of how Alaska Natives were impacted by the Russian-American Company, how the transition to American military rule played out on the ground, and how American businesses and capitalism transformed lives and cultures. Please listen, and if you like what you hear, please share with your friends and colleagues. You can listen to the podcast at my website, www.anjuligrantham.com/alaskaoutofthevault, or find Alaska Out of the Vault wherever you listen to podcasts.

I would like to thank the Alaska Historical Commission, Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, Kodiak Public Broadcasting and the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums for their support of this podcast, in addition to the many whom I interviewed and helped with my research.