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brown bear, land otter, beaver, mink,
and other animals, to about $16,000,000
more.

The product of the salmon can-
neries from 1884 to 1890 is estimated
at about $7,000,000, the largest can-
nery being at Karluk, on Kadiak
Island, where during the season of
1S90 nearly 1,100 fishermen and
packers were employed. The herring



ALASKAN DAYS.



219



fishery at Killisnoo yielded 157,000
gallons of oil in 1 890, and nearly twice
the amount in 1891. The codfish and
halibut fisheries are also very valuable.

The red salmon and king _ __

salmon are of great size
and of almost incredible
numbers. I have seen a
stream at Loring, the
waters of which w r ere a
restless, heaving, twink-
ling mass of salmons'
tails, where a mere nov-
ice could catch two or
three hundred pounds'
weight of fish in a few
minutes. The whale fish-
eries of the Arctic Ocean
yielded in 1890 nearly
a quarter of a million
pounds of whalebone,
4,000 pounds of ivory,
and nearly 15,000 barrels
of oil.

The chief item of min-
eral w r ealth is gold, of
which some mention will
be made later. Copper
is found on the Copper
River, cinnabar in the
Kuskokwim district, and
lignite in various places,
but these minerals have
not as yet much value.
Coal of good quality has
been discovered on Ad-
miralty Island, but it is
not very accessible.

The timber consists of
Sitka spruce, pine, hem-
lock and yellow cedar.
Of these the last named
is the most valuable, but
also the scarcest. It is
not probable that the
forests of Alaska will be
utilized till those of-
Washington and British
Columbia are beginning
to fail, for the merchantable timber
grows in groves of limited extent,
and after exhausting one grove the
lumberman must wander on until he
finds another.




Alaska offers comparatively few
opportunities for the agriculturist,
the ground being too rugged and for-
est-covered, and the rainfall ex-
=== __^^^ cessive. But on the Ke-
nai Peninsula the tundra
is dry enough to permit
potatoes and other veg-
etables, and possibly even
grain, to be raised. In
some parts of the penin-
sula cattle might be pas-
tured, the summers being
dry enough to allow hay
to be cured as winter
food. On the northeast
shore of Kadiak Island
also, there is excellent
pasture, and the natives
there have for many
years past kept a few
head of cattle and sheep,
and have raised potatoes
and other vegetables for
their own use.

The boundary of Alas-
ka begins at 54 40' of
north latitude, and passes
up Observatory Inlet, on
the British side of which
is Fort Simpson, a Hud-
son Bay trading-post. It
then runs northwards,
following the summit of
the dividing range, but,
if that is further than
three marine leagues
from the shore, a line
distant three marine
leagues is the boundary.
At this distance the boun-
dary line proceeds up the
coast until the Mt. St.
Elias range and the 141st
meridian of longitude are
reached. The 141st me-
ridian is then followed up
to the Arctic Ocean.
Several parties of the
U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and
of Canadian surveyors are now at work
in Southeastern Alaska upon the de-
limitation of the frontier. The w T ork
is to be done with great exactitude,



2 20



ALASKAN DAYS.



and, as the country is very rugged
and difficult, it will occupy two or
three seasons, from May to October in
each year.

The territory is divided into six
geographical divisions. The Arctic
includes the shores and islands of the
Arctic Ocean ; the Yukon comprises
the valley of the Yukon and its trib-
utaries ; the Kuskokwim the valley
of the Kuskokwim and its tributaries ;
the Aleutian consists of the islands of
the Aleutian group, part of the penin-
sula of Aliaska, and the Pribylof or
Seal Islands ; the Kadiak includes the
Kadiak group of islands, the Kenai
Peninsula and Prince William Sound.
The sixth division, the southeastern,
extends from the Portland Canal in
54 40' north latitude to Ml. St. Klias,
and includes the islands of the Alex-
ander Archipelago and the mainland
adjacent.

The population can only 1>c- roughly
estimated, but the official count of
1890 enumerates 31,795 persons. Of
these 4,303 arc whites, the rest being
Creoles of mixed Russian and native
parentage, ubiquitous Mongolians and
Indians. Of the Indians there are
five principal tribes — the Eskimos or
Innuits, the Aleuts, the Thlingets,
the Athabaskans and the Hydahs.
Twelve thousand seven hundred and
eighty-four Eskimos occupy the coasts
and islands of the Arctic Ocean ; they
are expert fishermen and hardy navi-
gators. Physically they are of fine
appearance, and are often tall and
muscular. They usually dress in
parkies made of feathers or of the
skins of wild animals. The Aleuts —
968 — inhabit the Aleutian and Shu-
tnagim Islands ; thej^ are excellent
hunters and are often fairly educated,
and by no means unfamiliar with
crockery, feather beds, cooking-stoves
and other appliances of civilization.
On the Seal Islands there are schools,
at which the majority of the children
of school age are in attendance.

The Athabaskans, numbering 3,441,
live along the lower banks of the Yu-
kon and Kuskokwim Rivers, and are



great hunters and fishers. They are
polygamous, and the Shaman, or
medicine-man, retains much of his
old-time influence among them. The
Thlingets, numbering 4,739, are the
tribe most commonly encountered by
the tourist, as they live on the islands
of the Alexander Archipelago and the
mainland near them, which are the
only portions of Alaska visited by
the ordinary traveler. The Hydahs
occupy the southern half of Prince of
Wales Island, and are noted for their
fierceness and courage. Their num-
bers are now, however, sadly reduced,
there being not quite 400 of them.
They are excellent carvers in bone,
metal, wood and stone, and build the
best cedar canoes on the coast. A
tribe called the Tsimpsean is met with
on Annette Island, usually called New
Metlakatla. The original settlement
at Metlakatla in British Columbia was
founded by the Rev. William Duncan,
and was removed to its present site
near I,oring about five years ago. The
story of Metlakatla is full of romantic
incident, but there is not space to tell
it here.

Though it is usual, and perhaps in-
evitable, to speak of the native inhab-
itants of Alaska as "Indians," Dr.
Sheldon Jackson, the U. S. General
Agent of Education in Alaska, points
out that it is erroneous, for the U. S.
Courts have decided that they are not
" Indians.'' They can sue and be
sued, can make their own contracts,
are not confined to any ' { reservations, ' '
but can come and go as and when they
please. They are ambitious to imitate
American customs, to live in houses
built after the American fashion, to
dress in "store clothes." and to ac-
quire education, if not to "get re-
ligion."

Education in Alaska is chiefly pro-
vided by mission schools founded by
the Presbyterian Board of Missions,
aided by pecuniary contributions from
the naval authorities, who have their
headquarters at Sitka. The principal
mission schools are at Fort Wrangell,
(the largest village of the Stikine



ALASKAN DAYS.



221




TOP OF MUIK GLACIER.



River natives,) at Sitka, Chilkat,
Hoonah and Kaigan. At the Indus-
trial School at Sitka, carpentry is
taught to the boys, and sewing, knit-
ting and cooking to the girls. There
are also Government schools at thir-
teen places in the territory. But in
all Western Alaska there are only two
schools where English is taught ; one
at Ihuliuk, Oonalashka, and the other
on the Pribylof Islands. The Russian
Church claims 10,950 members, scat-
tered over five parishes and three
missions ; it contributes $60,000 per
annum to maintain churches, chapels



and schools where children are taught
the doctrines of the Greek, or Eastern
Catholic Church.

The Government of Alaska is de-
cidedly anomalous, there being no
laws, but only a few treasury regula-
tions, and "An Act providing a civil
government for Alaska. ' ' The District
is under the mining laws, but not
under the land laws of the United
States, the result being that no one,
except a few persons holding patents
from the Russian Government, owns
the land upon which he has expended
perhaps several thousands of dollars




NATIVE ALASKAN HUTS ON KADIAK ISLAND.



Vol. IV— 15



222



ALASKAN DAYS.




TRANSPORTING CANOE ON BLED, NORT1IKRN ALASKA.



in building a house or a store, by
any better title than that of mere
possession. There are no county

divisions and no capital, though Sitka
is the residence of the Governor, the
Postmaster, the District Judge, and
the U. S. Collector of Customs, Alaska
being a Customs' district. The Col-
lector is aided by three deputies,
scattered over the vast area with
almost no means of inter-communica-
tion. At Sitka there is usually a de-
tachment of Revenue Marines, occupy-
ing barracks near Baranoff castle, and
order is kept throughout the District
by occasional visits of a man-of-war
or a revenue cutter. San Francisco is
the central point of communication,
people in one part of Alaska hearing
from friends in another by way of the
Golden Gate. The mail line between
Sitka, Juneau, Fort Wrangell and
Port Townsend is the only branch of
the Postal service in the Territory.
Dwellers at Vakutat near Mt. St.
Klias are now and then visited by a
schooner from Sitka, and the inhabit-
ants of the Yukon River District de-
pend upon the Alaska Commercial
Company for letters and supplies,
which they usually receive once a



year, if the annual steamer is not
wrecked. Sometimes mail is brought
over the Chilkat pass, or by way of
Winnipeg.

The great evils of Alaska are
Shamanism, or the belief in witchcraft;
the fondness for ardent spirits, and the
degradation of women. The Shamans
naturally resent the interference of
the missionary, for they know well
that education means loss of revenue
and influence to themselves. It is not
allowed to sell spirits to the natives,
but the profits of smuggling are so
great that much bad whiskey gets in
as " Florida Water," " Bay Rum," or
"Pain Killer." The natives, too,
using a still improvised from an old
musket-barrel and a kerosene tin, have
learned to distil from rice, potatoes,
sugar, and molasses, a vile and highly
intoxicating spirit called "hooehinoo."
Whenever any considerable quantity
of this fiery stuff has been distilled, a
big spree is held, and trouble generally
ensues. Among the natives there is
almost no such thing as female virtue,
little girls of fourteen or fifteen years
of age being constantly sold by their
parents for sinful purposes. Indeed a
woman with several daughters is ac-



ALASKAN DAYS.



223



counted fortunate as the possessor of
a highly marketable commodity — a
girl's virtue. Even the girls educated
in good and cleanly habits by the
teachers at the Mission schools often
relapse into immodesty, the additional
charms resulting from their education
serving to render them only the more
attractive and valuable help-meets for
the white miners and settlers. In the
larger towns, such as Juneau, Fort
YVrangell and St. Michael's, there are
dance-houses, at which native girls,
often of agreeable manners and neatly
dressed, are to be .seen dancing with
the rough settlers.

But it is time to turn from matters
of cold fact to the trip of a visitor to
Southeastern Alaska, lest the reader
become wearied by the recital of de-
tails interesting enough to the statis-
tician or professed political economist,
but ' ' caviare to the general." Tourists
from Sin Francisco usually join the
Alaska-bound steamer at Tacoma or
Port Townsend, whence they cross the
Juan de Fuca Straits to Victoria, the
capital of British Columbia. Beauti-
ful as the city of Victoria, Beacon Hill
Park, and the naval station at Esqui-
miult are, we must leave them unde-
scribed, and hurry on past the maple



and cedar clad shores of Vancouver
Island. As we get further north, the
mountains to left and right of the
steamer increase in height, the ranges
back of the coast-hills and forests at-
taining an altitude of about 3,000 feet.
Soon they grow so high that their tops
are snow-crowned ; on their sides are
not infrequently seen long vertical
slides, the tracks of avalanches which
have mowed down in their irresistible
course all that lay in their path, leav-
ing a clear space, where giants of the
forest grew before. But these marks
of Nature's violence, in this moist and
genial climate, are soon obliterated,
for if Nature is often cruel, she knows
too how to be kind, and bright stripes
of verdure relieve the darker and
more sombre green of the forest firs
and cedars.

The first point of Alaskan soil to be
reached is Fort Tongass, the southerly
port of the entrance to Alaska. Some-
times the passengers land here in row-
boats, and explore their first Alaskan
town. Naha Bay is a delightfully
picturesque spot, lying amid a rich
undergrowth of mosses and ferns, and
towered over 1))* a dusky grove of tim-
ber-trees. The scenery from Fort
Tongass up to Fort Wrangell on




NATIVE DANCE AT ST. MICHAEL'S.



224



ALASKAN DAYS.



Ktolin Island is very fine and thor-
oughly characteristic of Southeastern
Alaska. Landlocked waterways and
fiords now open into broad smiling
lakes, and again narrow into passages
so intricate that one expects the ship
to go ashore. However, just as she
seems about to run her nose into the
land, a sharp turn of the wheel directs
her into a channel, the existence of
which was a minute or two ago en-
tirely unsuspected. Often slender
ribbons of silver are seen coursing
down the hillsides, or spreading out
into the form of a veil or an open fan.
In the rainy season, and at the first
melting of the snows, these waterfalls
are, doubtless, much fuller, but at
those seasons the air is so full of fog
and mist that most of the beauty of
the scene is lost. Throughout the
whole voyage, except occasionally
when glaciers intervene, and the
scenery assumes a harder, barer,
bleaker aspect, the shores are lined
down to the water's edge with thick
forests of fir, pine and cedar. Along
the beach is a fringe of driftwood,
piled so regularly that it seems the
handiwork of man, and not the
achievement of the ceaselessly plash-
ing waves. The beaches are every-
where scanty, the waterways being
deep right into shore. The forest-
clothed hills run down to the water's
brink, scarcely leaving space for an
Indian to draw up his canoe on the
narrow shelving sand. Now and then
we descry a rude cabin, the abode of
some fisherman — not seldom a white
man who has married an Indian wife,
and settled down into domesticity and
the easy indolence of semi- barbarism.
Behind the forest there usually runs a
range of higher mountains, the peaks
of which even in July are capped with
snow. This back range varies from
2,000 to 6,000 feet in height. Under
a bright sun the white mountain tops
gleam like burnished metal, and one
watches, with increasing fascination,
the ever-varying pictures endlessly
unrolling themselves to view, as in a
panorama, till the eyes are strained



and dazzled. Rarely are the topmost
peaks clearly defined, for clouds are
continually drifting about, and par-
tially or wholly enveloping the giants'
heads. The climate of Southeastern
Alaska is much misunderstood. The
mere mention of Alaska makes one
think of snow, glaciers, sealskins and
Arctic rigors ; and to this misconcep-
tion the title of H. W. Elliot's book—
' ' Our Arctic Province " — has probably
in part contributed. Of course, many
thousands of square miles of the dis-
trict lie near to or within the Arctic
circle, where temperatures of 6o° or
even 70 below zero are by no means
unknown. But witji this inhospitable,
frost-bound region the tourist has
nothing to do, for he visits merely the
Alexander Archipelago, or South-
eastern portion of the vast district.
Tourists do not get further north than
59 10' — or about the latitude of Bal-
moral Castle, the Scotch residence of
the Queen of England. The climate
of Southeastern Alaska is, at any rate
in summer, quite mild, its severity
being much mitigated by the Kuro
vSiwo, or black stream, of Japan,
which washes and warms its coasts.
The soft warm air reminds one much
of the caressing atmosphere of one
of the loveliest of English counties —
Devonshire. It also causes everything
green to grow at a prodigious rate,
and to fern-experts and collectors of
mosses Southeastern Alaska is a verit-
able paradise — the better that there
are no serpents in it. A very short
excursion from the beach takes the
explorer up to his knees in a tangled
mass of ferns, mosses, and under-
growth, dripping wet at all seasons.
The rainfall is very great, 103 inches
having been recorded in a single year,
and the average mean precipitation
being eighty inches.

Despite this heavy rainfall — or
because of it, perhaps — a fine day in
Alaska, while it may remind one of
Devonshire or of sunny Italy, has a
loveliness which is all its own. It is
soft, balmy and brilliant, and it reveals
beauties and splendors hitherto unseen



ALASKAN DAYS.



225



and unimagined. Mountain ranges
flash out in clear outline where until
now rested impenetrable banks of
cloud ; waters as yet dull and lifeless
sparkle and gleam with a thousand
ripples, and Nature greets her lovers
with a smiling countenance. At our
feet are noisy, rushing streams and a
gorgeous vegetation ; above our heads
dusky woods and snowy mountain
crests, tinged with the loveliest and
most varied colors. Anon glaciers



The higher the totem-pole the more
dignified the ancestry of the chief. At
Wrangell are to be bought silver rings
and spoons of native manufacture,
also carved horn spoons, bracelets,
baskets and Alaskan rubies. These
last are garnets, and are found on the
banks of the Stikine River. Here,
too, may be observed the ornaments
of Alaskan women, the commonest of
which is the labret, a bone or silver
vStud inserted in the lower lips through




JUNE AIT.



gleam and glint in the sun's rays,
sending back the white light shivered
and shattered into the prismatic hues
and iridescent tints of which it is the
sum and blended harmony.

Fort Wrangell is a beautiful spot,
rendered interesting to the visitor by
its historical associations, and by the
numerous though fast disappearing
totem-poles. These are trees carved
with the figures of men, birds and
animals, and set up in front of the
houses of chiefs or men of importance.



a hole which is enlarged as the wearer
grows older. The women also wear
finger-rings, ear-rings and bracelets of
silver, and occasionally of gold. A
curious practice is that of smearing
the face with a mixture of lampblack
and oil, especially before starting out
on a canoe trip. This is said to keep
the skin from becoming rough and
hard by exposure to sun and wind,
but as it is chiefly practiced by the
older women, it may be considered as
also intended to hide the ravages of



226



ALASKAN DAYS.



time, that universal destroyer of
female loveliness.

The most interesting of Alaskan
towns, is, of course, Sitka. Here,
bolted to a rock, is the castle of Prince
Baranoff, the former Russian Governor.
It is of a yellowish-brown tone, well
fitted to delight the eye of the aesthete,
and win the praise of Oscar Wilde
himself. In by-gone days Baranoff
Castle was the scene of many a gay
dance or dinner party, for the Rus-
sians were generous hosts. The view
over the bay, crowded as it with almost
innumerable islands, recalls the Bay
of Naples, the resemblance being in-
creased by the propinquity of the vol-
canic peak, Mt. Edgecumbe. The
" rancherie " is delightfully quaint,
and, owing to the wholesome despot-
ism of various United States naval
officers, is much cleaner than most
Indian settlements. To people fond
of religious and educational work, the
Mission School, with its laundry,
museum and carpenter's shop, is full
of interest. Not far from the school
is Indian River, where a rustic bridge
spans a mountain torrent, which now
and then breaks bounds and sweeps
all before it. It is a lovely bit of
Alaskan woodland scenery, and has the
added charm of being reached by the
very best road in the whole country.
On our return we must not overlook
the Greek church with its pretty
spi relet and green, metal -covered
dome, for the kindly priests can show
us many articles of great beauty and
value, as bridal crowns of gold and
silver, embroidered velvet stoles, fine
paintings and Ikons. The gem of
St. Nicholas church is the Ikon of
the Virgin and Child, known as "the
Madonna." The painted hands and
face are as delicate as if executed on
ivory by a miniaturist, and the robes
are of sterling silver exquisitely
chased.

From Sitka we pass on to a scene,
the sight of which repays us for all
the toils of the journey, and the recol-
lection of which can never be effaced
from the memory — the Muir Glacier.




ai.a^k \N Q2AVB, NBAS JUHBAV.

EEete a vast ice-field several miles
wide is compressed to a space of about
one and one-half miles, and forced up
to a height of between 300 and 400
feet above sea-level. The exquisite
purple tints of the ice, if one is so
fortunate as to see it under a bright
sun, can never be forgotten. The
depth and brilliancy of the colors baffle
description, and the terrible roar of
crashing icebergs stuns and awes the
l.ili older. One can climb up one of
the lateral moraines and getting on
the top of the glacier gaze out upon
ice, ice, ice, as far as the eye can see.
The ship, dwarfed by the vastness of
the natural surroundings, looks now a
mere speck upon the turbid waters of
Glacier Bay.

But we must hasten on to Juneau,
the mining center of Alaska. Hither
in the winter, when mining operations
are impossible in the iron-bound soil,
come the miners from the Yukon dis-
trict to squander their earnings at the
faro-table and in the dance houses.
But Juneau is a lovely spot, where
1 ' only man is vile. ' ' Behind the little
town rises a stern, dark hill, down
which trickle little silver streams : in



ALASKAN DAYS.



227



front are Gastineaux Channel and
Douglas Island, where is the richest
gold mine in Alaska. Two hundred
and forty stamps grind and thunder
night and day throughout the year,
crushing to powder 600 or 700 tons
of ore every twenty-four hours. The
quartz is of a low grade, but is so
abundant and so easily worked that
the enterprise. is immensely profitable.
In 1 89 1, gold bullion to the value of
$707,017 was shipped from the Tread-
well or Paris mine, which has the
enormous, and indeed in Alaska, the
indispensable advantage of being on
the water's edge, so that communica-
tion by steamer is both easy and
cheap. Under present conditions it
is almost hopeless to work a quartz
mine profitably iu Alaska unless it. is
situated right on or very near to water
carriage, as there are not only no rail-
roads, but not even any roads at all
in the country. Near Juneau, on
Sheep Creek, and in Silver Bow Basin,
a good deal of mining goes on, but
more than half the plant of the mills



is probably idle during the greater
part of the year. In the neighborhood
of Yakutat, near Mt. St. Elias, gold-
bearing sand is found in considerable
quantities, but the deposit is liable to
be washed awaj by heavy storms,
and the recovery of the gold is attended
by some difficulties which render it
only moderately profitable.

But here I must close, though the
temptation to run on is almost irre-
sistible, for in very truth the wonders
and beauties of Alaska are so numer-
ous that it is impossible to compress
any but the barest account of them
within the limits of a single article. I
can only heartily recommend every
lover of nature to go and see for him-
self, feeling sure that he will come
back and say. as the Queen of Sheba
said of Jerusalem in the days of Solo-
mon : "It was a true report that I
heard in mine own land. Howbeit
I believed not the words until I
came, and mine eyes had seen it ;
and, behold, the half w T as not told
me."




(From thotograi.h by Taber.)



SITKA, FROM THE ISLANDS.




In olden zvoods the rarest mosses be.








A REDWOODS IDYLL,

BY JOHN VANCE CHENEY.

WAS in the days when through the Golden Gate
The good ships bore the builders of a State.
Why was it royal Adolph could not be
Hail fellow in this lordly company,
Lordly as ever from the ends of earth
Was drawn and marshalled for a city's birth ?



Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 30 of 120)