AHS Blog  |  49 History

Comprehensive Guide to Landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

Date Posted: August 25, 2022       Categories: 49 History News

The first-ever comprehensive guide to historical sources about the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) has been completed by the Alaska Historical Society (AHS).

The three-volume, nearly 1,200-page Guide to Sources for the Study of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act identifies the vast majority of documents in existence about the historic claims act legislation located in archives, libraries, personal collections and online from Alaska to Washington, D.C. It serves as the premier information gateway for researchers, historians and those interested in the fascinating history of how the largest land claims settlement in U.S. history became law.

The AHS spent more than two years identifying documents about the act and detailing where they are located and how they can be accessed. The project unearthed numerous fascinating “gems” leading to passage of the act, such as:

  • A 20-page report about the first statewide meeting of Alaska Native leaders in Anchorage in 1966 that laid the groundwork for establishment of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
  • A 1970 speech by President Nixon on Indian policy in which he called for a new approach to the federal treatment of Native Americans, a historic change from termination to self-determination.
  • A speech by Dr. Henry Forbes, whose financial backing helped establish the Tundra Times and who worked with Howard Rock, the newspaper’s founder and editor.

PRAISE FOR THE GUIDE

“The Alaska Historical Society has produced a valuable resource guide to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act,” said Tlingit elder and land claims activist Irene Rowan, who also served in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s as special assistant for Alaska programs to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. “This tool is important to those wishing to learn who was involved—why, how and who benefited. The guide will be useful in so many ways for so many people for many years to come. I commend and thank the AHS for taking on this mammoth and important project.”

“ANCSA was a major turning point in the history of Alaska Natives and their relationships to local, state and federal governments,” said Chuck Smythe, senior ethnologist with the Sealaska Heritage Institute. “This invaluable sourcebook provides a guide to primary and secondary sources for understanding what led to this act and its aftermath, which is still unfolding across the state.”

Tundra Times newspaper, December 22, 1971. Courtesy of Ukpeagvik Iñupiat Corporation and Tuzzy Consortium Library of Utqiaġvik, Alaska.

EXPLORING THE GUIDE

The project is organized into three separate documents for ease of use:

  • VOLUME 1 – HISTORY AND ARCHIVAL COLLECTIONS is an inventory of primary sources about the act detailing where specific historic documents are housed and how to view them. Sites include university, state and national archives, presidential libraries, museums, on-line data bases and agencies such as the National Park Service.
  • VOLUME 2 – ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY is a bibliography of published and unpublished sources of information about the act including books, articles, films, websites, major archival collections and even college theses and term papers. For example, it includes the college research paper Iñupiaq leader Willie Hensley wrote in 1966 which brought to light the legal reasons Natives had a claim to land.
  • VOLUME 3 – RESOURCES FOR THE TEACHING OF ANCSA AT 50 is a guide for educators wanting to teach about ANCSA and features curriculum approaches and key questions to pursue with their students.

ACCESSING THE GUIDE ONLINE

The guide is a fully searchable and navigable electronic PDF document available online.

OUR FUNDING PARTNERS

Essential funding for the project came from Alaska Native regional corporations including Doyon, Sealaska, Calista, Bering Straits and Koniag, as well as from the Rasmuson Foundation and the Atwood Foundation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact William Schneider, project director, at wsschneider@alaska.edu

Download Project’s Informational Flyer

Download AHS Press Release, August 22, 2022





Eyewitness Booklet Series

Date Posted: March 15, 2021       Categories: 49 History News

Chris Allan has compiled five booklets of what he calls the “Eyewitness Series.”  They are being made available on the Alaska Historical Society’s website. Chris’s intent with the first four booklets is to showcase voices of the past: “I wanted to get away from the traditional historian’s narrative form where primary sources play a secondary or tertiary role behind the historian’s voice and analysis. I like the idea of people hearing history from the eyewitnesses. In each case, I was so impressed with what was available in digitized newspapers that I wanted to share it.” His booklet about mining operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek does the same as the others but allows photographers from the 1930s to tell the story. Each booklet includes advertisements, early maps, paintings, drawings and photographs previously unpublished or never collected in the same place.

Hoping to stimulate others to undertake new investigations, Chris also prepared a guide called “The Newspaper Bonanza: How to Discover Alaska’s Past in Newspaper Databases.”

The booklets are:

Eyewitness Series #1: American Side of the Line: Eagle City’s Origins as an Alaskan Gold Rush Town as Seen in Newspapers and Letters, 1897-1899, a collection from the town’s first year during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Eyewitness Series #2: As the Old Flag Came Down: Eyewitness Accounts of the October 18, 1867 Alaska Transfer Ceremony, a collection of sources describing the ceremony at Sitka after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.

Eyewitness Series #3: A Rough and Tumble Country: Juneau’s Origins as Alaska’s First Gold Mining Boomtown as Described by Eyewitnesses, 1880-1881, a collaboration with Mark Kirchhoff about the discovery of gold in Gastineau Channel and the evolution of what would become Alaska’s capital city.

Eyewitness Series #4: Of Gold and Gravel: A Pictorial History of Mining Operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek, 1934-1938, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a collection of seventy-five photographs illustrating the construction of two mining camps and two gold dredges in Alaska’s backcountry.

Eyewitness Series #5: A River’s Many Faces: Depictions of Life on the Yukon River by Charles O. Farciot and Willis E. Everette, 1882-1885, a collection of photographs and drawings offering glimpses of an Indigenous world shaped by fur trading companies and, increasingly, by outsiders searching for gold.





Denali Park Road History

Date Posted: October 19, 2020       Categories: 49 History News

The Year Everything Changed: The 1972 Shuttle Bus Decision in Mount McKinley National Park.

Tourism numbers at Denali National Park dropped this last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The park projected between 50-60 thousand visitors. The last time Denali had so few tourists the park had a different name, private automobiles could still drive the length of the road, and Richard Nixon was President—it was the early 1970s. It was an era of big change in Denali.

Read more about the history of Denali National Park’s shuttle bus system in an article by Erik Johnson, Historian at Denali National Park.

 





Sea Otters of Amchitka

Date Posted: October 19, 2020       Categories: 49 History

The Sea Otters Of Amchitka (1959)
Richard Ravalli, Associate Professor, History Department, William Jessup University, Rocklin, California

During the coronavirus lockdown, I had the opportunity to work via e-mail with Angela Schmidt of the Alaska Film Archives at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I was interested in the archive’s copy of the 1959 nature film The Sea Otters of Amchitka, produced by Thorne Films of Boulder, Colorado and shot by naturalist H. Robert Krear. It is the first completed documentary about the animals, and, having just finished a book on sea otter history but not having known about the film, I was very eager to get a glimpse of it. Luckily, despite the somewhat degraded state of the AFA’s print, Angela was able to digitize The Sea Otters of Amchitka and upload it for me to view.

H. Robert Krear at Amchitka, ca. 1959. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the same time, I was also in contact with Dr. Oakleigh Thorne of Thorne Films, who shared information about his work with Krear on the project. With gracious permission from “Oak,” now in his 90s and still going strong, Angela made the video clip public. But Dr. Thorne didn’t stop there. Searching his decades of records from hundreds of nature films produced by him beginning in the 1950s, he was able to locate a higher quality copy of the The Sea Otters of Amchitka and donated it to the AFA for digitization. This copy can now be seen on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bcS2HgetEE&feature=youtu.be

At the middle of the twentieth century, Amchitka was home to the largest concentration of the animals in the North Pacific. The opportunities that the otter population at the island provided for research were complicated by Cold War plans to test nuclear weapons there, a project that, following complaints from conservation officials, was halted until the 1960s. In the meantime, Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Karl Kenyon was working to transport sea otters from Amchitka to other locations in the Pacific to try to reverse some of the disastrous effects of the maritime fur trade. Animals were also flown from the island to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo beginning in 1954, where the first otters held in captivity in an American facility were displayed.

While at Amchitka in 1957 assisting Kenyon’s conservation efforts as a University of Colorado doctoral student, Krear was tasked with shooting footage for the documentary, with film provided by Thorne. He also narrated the The Sea Otters of Amchitka during final production in Colorado. Unfortunately, Krear, passed away in 2018, so I wasn’t able to talk with him about his work, but he did publish a memoir in 2006 titled Four Seasons North: Exploration and Research in the Artic and Subarctic, edited by Terri Garrett, with a section on his time at Amchitka. It offers a somewhat dry but intriguing account of his daily activities on the island, working with Kenyon and several others, including an Aleut Native assistant named Innokinty Golodoff. Their main task was to build a holding pen and capture sea otters for transport to Seattle and the Pribilof Islands. Sadly, all of the otters that left Amchitka by air perished before they could reach their destination. Nevertheless, the lessons learned allowed scientists to perfect translocation methods from the island, which proved largely successful for recovery of the animals throughout the Pacific Northwest in the decades to come.

Krear and Thorne were well aware of the sea otter’s value as a nature film celebrity. While The Sea Otters of Amchitka may have only been seen by conservation advocates and in educational settings prior to the closure of Thorne Films in the early 1970s, the production began the process of popularizing the endearing animals. Near the 34 minute mark, Krear predicts, “In the future it is hoped that the value of this animal to the world will be chiefly aesthetic, but biologists and conservationists anticipate difficulty in promoting this viewpoint.” Such concerns proved fleeting. As Krear noted simply yet poignantly about the film in his memoir years later, “Jacques Cousteau made one later.”





Before and After the Nineteenth Amendment

Date Posted: September 12, 2020       Categories: 49 History

By Sue Sherif, Fairbanks, Alaska. Sue is a retired librarian and is a member of the League of Women Voters, which is also marking its 100th anniversary this year.

The 19th Amendment. Photo courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

August 2020 marks several landmarks in the long struggle for voting rights for women.  August 18, 1920 saw the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution by the state legislature of Tennessee, and on August 26, 1920 the amendment was officially added to our Constitution and meant that women who were U.S. citizens had the right to vote in all states of the Union. Neither of these events were the beginning or the end of America’s struggle to determine who may vote. Instead it has been a long, challenging, and continuing battle to recognize that one of the key privileges of citizenship is the right to vote.

Our Constitution itself has very little to say about who is a qualified voter and what exactly citizenship means. Instead it was left to the states to determine voter qualifications. A few of the original states allowed voting by women and free black men in certain circumstances, but for the most part early American voters were white men who owned property or paid taxes. Even the qualifications for the minority of the population who might qualify to vote varied from state to state. In 1806, when New Jersey abolished its provision for women to vote, no women anywhere in the country could legally vote. In early elections, less than 10% of the population constituted the new country’s male electorate.

In the early 1800’s, as Americans discussed and refined the qualifications for voting and tried to address under what circumstances the new waves of German and then Irish immigrants might or might not qualify to become citizens, women began to look for their rights as citizens as well. Women at that time had very few legal rights in marriage. Not only were they ineligible to vote, they could not own property, enter into contracts independently, work at most jobs, be admitted to higher education, or have custody of their children should they escape a troubled marriage. Nor were they even allowed to speak publicly to what were then called “promiscuous audiences” (audiences that contained both females and males). As doors to education began to open for a few women, they began to look for ways to improve the lot of all women. Many of these women became activists in the movement to abolish slavery, and, as they joined abolition groups, they began to see that they were limited in their advocacy because they had no standing as voters.

Drawing of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

In that environment, five abolitionist women in upstate New York in 1848 organized a gathering to discuss women’s rights. The Seneca Falls convention attracted women and men to discuss the rights of women and draw up resolutions for action. Their discussion resulted in 11 resolutions, 10 of which passed with enthusiastic unanimity, but one resolution that Elizabeth Cady Stanton had added despite her fellow organizers’ and her own husband’s objections, called for the right of women to vote. It became the most hotly debated topic of all. It was only when Frederick Douglass, the only African American delegate, spoke up for the need for women’s suffrage, did the resolution pass. After that debate, the idea of women’s suffrage spread quickly although it was to take 70 years before the warriors of the suffrage movement were able to translate their advocacy into the 19th Amendment.

Susan B. Anthony soon joined Stanton in devoting her life to the cause, and we still know their names today. But along with Anthony and Stanton were others who should be remembered. You already know the names of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who spoke and acted against slavery, but did you know that both of these towering figures were active and outspoken as women’s suffragists? National and local organizations for women’s suffrage bloomed, merged, and faded during the course of the next 70 years. From these groups came women like Lucy Stone, a stirring orator and devoted abolitionist; and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an African American poet, orator, and abolitionist. We should know these names and learn more about them.

After the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement floundered when the nation debated the 14th and 15th Amendments that established black men as voters. The suffragists, who had worked hand and glove with the abolition movement, thought the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery would bring equal rights for all, including the right to vote. Instead, they were told that it was the “Negro’s hour,” and that women of all races would have to wait. In spite of the fact that the leaders Stanton and Anthony, who felt betrayed by compromise, uttered racist comments in their bitterness and actively opposed the 15th Amendment, women of all races continued the struggle despite the resulting division in the suffragist ranks. Many African American suffrage leaders like Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell continued organizing and protesting for the right to vote.

In the West, some of the newer territories and states began to pass women suffrage acts either as acts of their legislatures or popular referenda. Even so, the opposition to female voters continued to argue that women were not biologically suited to voting and that a wife’s vote would only: 1) duplicate her husband’s vote; or 2) cancel it out. When the considerable force of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union with chapters all over America embraced the cause of votes for women, the liquor industry actively campaigned against women’s suffrage.

Sentinels at the White House. Photo courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

As the early leaders like Stanton and Anthony passed on, confident that their lives’ work would eventually see results, new leaders like Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns took their places. When Woodrow Wilson was president, Paul and Burns organized massive marches and moved their advocacy to another level when they staged the first acts of organized civil disobedience in front of the White House in U.S. history as they encircled the grounds as “Silent Sentinels” six days a week for months, resulting in jailing and forced feedings. Their actions, considered outrageous by some at the time, actually brought public sympathy and pushed the needle closer to Congress and the president’s eventual acceptance of the need for a constitutional amendment.

We all need to know the names of  suffragists of that time like Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Mabel Ping-hua Lee, Nina Otero, and Zitkala-Sa and learn more about them.

Outstanding achievement though the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment was, the struggle was not over. For example, the Alaska Territorial Legislature had actually passed a woman’s suffrage act as its first piece of legislation when it organized in 1913. But after the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alaska Natives, male or female, for the most part, were still not able to vote because their U.S. citizenship was not established until 1924.

Matilda “Tillie” Khaalyát’ Kinnon Paul Tamaree (1864-1955) was a Tlingit woman of the Teeyhittaan Raven clan of Wrangell, Alaska. She founded the New Covenant Legion, a Christian temperance organization that turned into the Alaska Native Brotherhood. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Photo Collection and the Alaska’s Suffrage Stars Exhibit.

Then in 1925, the territorial legislature disenfranchised many when it enacted legislation that made passing an English-language literacy test a qualification for voting that was not stricken from our laws until 1970. African American men who had gained the right to vote through the 14th amendment in 1868, and African American women, particularly if they lived in the South, were barred from voting by Jim Crow measures and physical violence that would not end until the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s led to the enactment of the Voters Rights Act of 1965.

Even today, we read of attempts at voter suppression, so the struggle of previous generations for the right to vote continues to this day. On this anniversary of the 19th Amendment, consider your right to vote and learn more about it. For example, to learn about early Alaska suffragists, go the Alaska State Museum website to view their online exhibit Alaska’s Suffrage Stars at https://lam.alaska.gov/suffrage-star. To learn more about the suffragist warriors nationwide, visit the National Park Service site at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/19th-amendment.htm. To listen to women talk about their own experiences in the suffrage movement, go to the Suffragists Project Jukebox created by the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in collaboration with California State University Long Beach oral historian, Sherna Berger Gluck.

Whether or not you remember the names of any of the countless women and men who fought for the vote, let’s take the time in their honor during this election season to exercise that hard-won right.

A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper on August 30, 2020.