Alaska Natives and the Land
( TEXT 3 )

This text deals with the complex legal actions that preceded the Alaska Native Claims Settlement. The many new terms introduced will make it necessary for the teacher to give special attention to vocabulary study.

Word games introduced in other parts of the project may be helpful.

This book falls into several divisions:

  1. First Years of American Rule
  2. Encroachments on Native Lands
  3. The Years of Unacknowledged Title
  4. Renewed Promise.

Because of the difficulty of the content, discussion questions are suggested to help the teacher organize the content. This has not been done with the other eight texts.

Another teaching technique, that of interviewing, is introduced here. Some use can be made of interviewing in this and succeeding units.




  1. Land claims of Eskimos, Indians, and Aleuts have historic foundations.
  2. Many people, both Native and non-Native, have devoted energy to helping achieve a land claims settlement.
  3. All the Native groups of Alaska contributed to winning the settlement.
  4. There were many events in United States History which led eventually to a Native claims settlement.



  5. Land Rights
    Stake a Claim
    Racial Segregation
    Extinguishment of Land Title
    Civil Government
    Natural Resources
    Territorial Legislature
    House of Representatives
    "Indian Country"
    "Uncivilized Tribes"
    "Restricted" Land Title
    Racial Discrimination
    "Civilizing" American Tribes
    Land Office
    Public Domain
    Resource Development
    Economic Growth


  7. Treaty of Cession, 1867
    Establishment of Military District
    Establishment of Customs Office
    Native Allotment Act, 1906
    Native Land Rights Conference
    Citizenship Act
    Statehood Act of 1958
    Tlingit-Haida Case
    Organic Act, 1884
    1890 Land Act
    New Metlakatla
    Native Townsite Act, 1926
    Dawes Act
    Indian Reorganization Act (Wheeler-Howard Act)
    Secretary of the Interior


  9. Alaska Native Brotherhood
    Chapter / Camps
    Alaska Native Sisterhood


  • Judge James Wickersham
    Tom Guarrick
    William Duncan
    Chief Joe of Salchaket
    Frank Peratrovich
    Frank G. Johnson
    William E. Beltz
    William L. Paul
    Chief Alexander of Tolovana
    Andrew Hope
    Percy Ipalook
    Frank Degnan
    James K. Wells



    QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION - First Years of American Rule

    1. Was the Russian sale of Alaska to the United States, in 1867, legal? Why or why not?
    2. Read the quotation from the letter from Governor Swineford to the President. Did the Chilkat chief have the right to collect a toll from white men passing through their territory? Why or why not?
    3. What intrusions into aboriginal lands occurred in the years following the transfer of Alaska to the United States?
    4. How did the Organic Act promise Alaska Natives the continued use and occupancy of their aboriginal lands? Explain.
    5. What advantages did miners and missionaries receive under the Organic Act which the Alaska Natives did not receive?


    QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION - Encroachments on Native Lands

    1. In the early days Indian groups opposed the establishment of reservations. Yet, in 1950, eighty villages petitioned the U.S. Government for the establishment of such reservations. How can you account for this seeming change in attitude? How do you feel about this change?
    2. Specifically, what did the Tlingits and Haidas have to prove in order to convince the U.S. Court of Claims that they should be paid for land taken from them?
    3. What effect did the Statehood Act of 1958 have on the establishment of land titles to Indian Territory?
    4. From 1867 to 1960, Tlingits and Haidas from southeastern Alaska most often led the movement toward acquisition of Indian Land Title and Citizenship. Why was this the case?


    QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION - The Years of Unacknowledged Title

    1. What effect did the 1891 Land Act establishing the Tsimpshian community of New Metlakatla have on Alaska Native Land Rights?
    2. Did Congress have the right to withdraw millions of acres from the public domain to establish Tongass and Chugach National Forests and Mt. McKinley National Park? Why or why not?
    3. Why were the Native Allotment Act of 1906 and the Native Townsite Act of 1926 not effective in dealing with Native uses of land and waters? Why were they unable to protect Native Lands?
    4. The goals of the ANB were winning U.S. citizenship, gaining an education, and abandonment of aboriginal customs. Do you feel these were the best objectives they could have pursued? Why or why not?
    5. What effect did the Dawes Act have on Native Alaskan culture? Explain.
    6. What political steps did Alaska Natives take to win citizenship and the right to own their land?


    1. Why were Native peoples unable to share in the wealth of the Gold Rush?
    2. Read the statement made by Jefferson Moser. What rules of aboriginal law did whitemen violate in their harvesting of salmon?
    3. What might the U.S. Government have done to prevent the near extermination of the sea mammals in Alaskan waters? Take each mammal and suggest ways of regulating its harvesting.
    4. If you had been President of the United States in 1909 when Major General Greeley wrote his Handbook of Alaska, what do you think was owed Alaska Natives and how should they have been repaid?





  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the struggle of Alaska Natives for their land rights during the period from 1867 through 1960.

  • As an introductory lesson to Text Three, have students skim quickly over the entire booklet.

    Ask them to draw a timeline showing the major events which occurred between 1867 and 1960. They should begin with the Treaty of Cession (of 1867) and end with the Statehood Act of 1958.


  • Butcher Paper or Construction Paper
    Felt Tip Pencils



    Did the Chilkat Tlingits have the right to demand a toll from people passing through the land?

    "...Inhabited By, But Not Belonging to Them..."

    An archbishop and members of his party journeying to the Yukon Territory in 1886 were stopped by a chief of the Chilkat Tlingits and told to pay a fee for passing through their area. When the archbishop protested the chief reportedly assaulted him. Upon hearing of the complaint, Governor A.P. Swineford (along with twelve men) traveled to Chilkoot village and arrested the chief, who "boldly asserted the right to exact payment for the privilege of passing through the country he claimed as belonging to him and his people." He then talked with the Chilkats, warning them that they "must abandon their pretensions of right to collect toll from white men passing through the country inhabited by but not belonging to them in a political sense...." He received, he reported, a promise of "future good behavior."

    --letter from Governor Swineford to the President,
    October 1, 1886


    SELECTED DATES 1867-1959




    Alaska is purchased from Russia by the United States.

    Treaty of Cession provides that "uncivilized Native tribes" to be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regards to aboriginal tribes of that country."




    Governance of Alaska by the Army, then by the Collector of Customs, then by the Navy.




    Beginning of salmon industry; first canneries established.




    First important gold discovery in Alaska (Juneau).




    The Organic Act makes Alaska a District with appointed governor and other officers; protection for lands used and occupied by Natives promised.




    Native Allotment Act provides first opportunity for Natives to obtain land under restricted title.




    Alaska becomes a territory with two-house legislatures; capital at Juneau.




    Alaska Native Brotherhood is founded in Sitka.




    Citizenship Act extends citizenship to all Alaska Natives who had not become citizens earlier.




    First Native --William L. Paul-- elected to territorial legislature.




    Native Townsite Act provides opportunity for Natives to obtain restricted deeds to village lots.




    Provisions of Indian Reorganization Act extended to Alaska permitting establishment of reservations for Native groups.




    Congress approves the Statehood Act; right to Native lands is disclaimed; State to choose 103 million acres.




    Court of Claims rules that Indian title of Tlingits and Haidas was not extinguished and that they were entitled to compensation for lands taken from them by the United States.



    Learning Activity - Number 2


  • Students will become familiar with the geography of Southeastern Alaska.

    To make students aware of the tribal divisions among the Tlingits and how they affected the early struggle with the non-Natives over their aboriginal land holdings.


    1. Introduce lesson by explaining to students that the Tlingit nation was divided into thirteen distinct groups, called Kon. (Remind students that there were twenty-one groups among the Alaska Eskimo.)

      Each kon or tribe had its own permanent village and its own hunting and fishing grounds.

      The tribal names were based on the river and/or the bay upon which their villages were situated.
    2. Ask students to label the areas in which these thirteen tribes lived on an outline map. You may wish to give your students more than just the tribal names shown on the map below. You could also give them a description of their location like the one shown on the following page.

    Map of Tlingit Tribal Groups



  • Outline map of Southeastern Alaska.
    List of names and location of the thirteen Tlingit kons.



    Yakutat-kon: The most northern tribe

    Chilkat-kon: North end of Lynn Canal

    Aukwan-kon: North shore of Admiralty Island (near Juneau)

    Taku-kon: Lived on Taku Bay and River

    Hoonah-kon: Lived on Cross Sound

    Killisnoo-kon: South end of Admiralty Island

    Kake-kon: Kupreanof Island

    Sitka-kon: Baranof Island

    Kuju-kon: Kuju Island

    Stikine-kon: Lived on Stikine River

    Henja-kon: North end of Prince of Wales Island

    Klawak-kon: Central Prince of Wales Island

    Tongass-kon (Cape Fox): End of Portland Canal


    This lesson can be made much more interesting if you give students some additional background about these tribes. An alternative would be to have students research in small groups one of the kons. Some background is given below:


    Yakutat-kon : Were very hostile toward the whites. A Russian colony founded in 1799 in Yakutat Bay was destroyed by them in 1805. They then retreated to one of their forts whose walls of wood were so thick and heavy that the cannon balls of the Russian ships under Baranof could not penetrate them. (The Yakutat themselves had two cannons, captured from the Russians, which were mounted in the forts and which did considerable damage to the Russian ships.)

    Inside the stockade were fourteen houses which could have contained 800 men. When the Yakutats ran out of ammunition, they fled the forts after having killed 300 Russians and Aleuts. Little children and dogs who could not keep up with the fleeing natives were killed by their own people to save them from the fate of falling into the Russian hands. The Yakutat differed from other Tlingits tribes in that they were the only kon that did not hesitate to hunt whales.

    Chilkat-kon: They were the most powerful of all the Tlingit kons - they were held in high esteem by other Tlingits, by neighboring Indian groups, and indeed they seemed to have some domination over them. They acted as middlemen in trade between the Interior Indians, the Athabascans, and the white men. No white was permitted to directly trade with any interior Indian until 1880 when the American Navy forced the Chilkat to allow white men through their territory.

    Aukwan-kon: This tribe was forcefully removed from part of their territory in the early 1880's because gold was found on their land.

    Taku-kon: Traded with the interior Indians as the Chilkat did.

    Killisnoo-kon: Lived fairly peacefully with the whites.

    Sitka-kon: This tribe had the most contact with the whites. They were first to be colonized by the Russians and were very unruly much like the Yakutats. In 1877 they destroyed and occupied an American fort in their territory.

    Kake-kon: They were very numerous and restless. More than once their villages were totally destroyed by the Russians and the Americans.

    A good source for additional information about the Tlingits is Auriel Krause, The Tlingit Indian.




    Students will recognize the contributions of several Alaskans important in the winning of Native land claims during the period 1867 - 1960.


    1. Have each student draw a name tag of an Alaskan who made a major contribution to the acquisition of Native land rights between the Treaty of Cession and the Alaska Statehood Act.
    2. Ask each student to research the background of the individual s/he drew. There should be several reference books on Alaskans available in the classroom for this research. Students should be warned not to tell any of their classmates who their "famous Alaskan" is.
    3. After a day of research have each student ask the class to guess who the famous Alaskan is. The class may ask questions that can only be answered yes or no. Keep track of how many questions and the kinds of questions the class asks.
    4. Suggested names for this game should include:


      Judge James Wickersham
      Tom Guarrick
      William Duncan
      Chief Jos of Salchaket
      Frank G. Johnson
      William E. Beltz
      James K. Wells
      General Jeff C. Davis
      Sitka Chief Annahootz


      William L. Paul
      Chief Alexander of Tolovana
      Frank Peratrovich
      Andrew Hope
      Percy Ipalook
      Frank Degnan
      William Seward
      Joe Juneau

    5. An additional activity would be to play the same game but have students draw the name of one of the laws passed during the period which affected the Native land claims. Ask students to research these and then play game as stated above. This legislation could include:

      Treaty of Cession, 1867
      Native Allotment Act, 1906
      Native Townsite Act, 1926
      Indian Reorganization Act
      (Wheeler-Howard Act)

      Organic Act, 1884
      1890 Land Act
      Dawes Act
      Tlingit-Haida Case
      Statehood Act of 1958

    6. As an alternative to the above, you might have students draw names of famous Alaskans and have them make a collage of "their" personality. It might be more interesting if the collages were 3-dimensional - pictures on boxes, cones, cylinders, pyramids, etc. These could be suspended from the ceiling or set on shelves around the room.




    DESIRED STUDENT OUTCOME: Students will analyze the message of the media.

    Major General Jefferson C. Davis




    Through a simulation, students will experience some of the problems facing Natives and whites in regard to Alaska land claims in 1900.


    1. As a concluding exercise and a test on how well the class has grasped the concepts of Unit III, play the following simulation game.

    2. Divide the class into five groups. Assign each an Alaskan group to represent. These groups should include:

    3. Each of the first four groups is to plan and conduct one day of classroom activities to demonstrate their demands for Alaskan land claims. They are to try to convince the fifth group, the Representatives of the Territorial Legislature, that it should pass laws which meet their demands.

    4. It will take 2-3 days for each group to plan their activity day.

    5. In planning their day, each group should decide:

      1. What specifically they want to achieve.
      2. How best to achieve goals
      3. What are best ways to convince the Territorial Legislature to meet their demands.

    6. After all four groups have made their one-day presentations, the Territorial Legislature will meet to decide what laws they will pass and what concessions they will grant to each group. It will be an open session with all groups listening to the debate of the Legislature. It is important to remind the Legislature that they may not grant things which are contradictory.

    7. Rules of the Game: It's O.K. for each group to decorate the room, serve Native meals, bring inguest speakers, show art works, take school or community polls, give testimony from famous people in the community, etc. Anything students feel will convince the Legislature to meet their demands is permissible.

    Instructor should design follow-up questions that lead the students to see all sides of the question.


    Your school is teaching the Native Land Claims because it is thought to be important to you. Think over the things you have learned while studying this material. Do any of the things you have learned:


    One experience might

    remind you of something

    help you understand something

    make you better able to do something

    give you a new feeling about something or someone

    make you change your mind about something

    make you want to do something

    help you solve a problem

    help you get to know someone better broaden your view another time or in another place

    Circle any that apply to you and give an example.


    Broaden my view. - - - - -  I didn't know the different ways people lived.



    A New Role

    An enjoyable and important aspect of interviewing is that the classroom teacher can step back from the demands of the teaching role and become a learner, a listener. There are other occasions in the classroom when the teacher can listen to students without "monitoring" their ideas. But in the interview the teacher does no "teaching," makes no corrections, suggests no further examples or illustrations, passes no judgment on the mode of presentation. It is a time when students can "tell it like it is."

    Attentive listening and questioning produce the best interviews, when students reveal the full range of their thinking and feeling. Students of this age when asked for opinions, when asked to judge materials, when asked to clarify ideas, usually respond with great zest. They care a great deal about being treated as "grown-ups," about displaying competence and about showing their grasp of a subject area -- in fact, they often show an assimilation of detail that is awe-inspiring.

    Introducing the Interview

    The teacher must put the students as much at ease as possible. An atmosphere, unlike that of a traditional classroom test, helps draw out the best ideas that students have. One way to create the relaxed mood is for the interviewer to introduce himself in his new role thus:

  • When you work in groups or when discussions are going on, I don't get as good an opportunity as....

    I'd like to hear the ideas and opinions of each of you. So I thought that occasionally we could gather in small groups so that you could talk about the course. I'd like to hear more of your personal opinions. I'd also like to hear your thoughts about some of the ideas of this course. Many of them are very new and not always easy at first. Maybe you can help me to understand what ideas you personally don't find clear, and what you think we need to spend more time or less time doing.


    Mechanics of the Interview

    We suggest that students be interviewed in groups of three or four for about twenty minutes while the rest of the class pursues other activities. You might interview two groups in one day, spreading the interviews over a week or more. Or you might decide to interview only half the class after one section and the rest after another. (Students will want to be told this, if you so decide.) An area apart from the classroom is best for interviewing; if that is not available, then the quietest corner or the section of the room farthest from the rest of the class is the best alternative, with the students sitting with you in a small circle, and facing away from the class.

    As you start each interview, some simple explanation of procedure may be necessary. students should know that this is not a time for raising hands -- this is a chance to talk among themselves, and discuss the questions you put to them. As long as they speak one at a time, there are no fixed rules of procedure -- just a normal flow of conversation.

    The primary function of the interviewer is to set the stage and control the pace of the conversation. During the interview, there should be no correction of students' statements: Often, the students correct each other, but the listener should (however difficult it may be) refrain from "teaching."

    To avoid the problem of the child who wants to monopolize the interview, it should be made clear that each student has a turn at answering a question (with elaborations following from the rest of the group), and that the amount of interview time is limited. In this way the interviewer also gets a clearer sense of the personal knowledge and attitudes of each student.

    You may want to have a few sets of questions that you alternate among groups, so that a new kind of "test - wiseness" doesn't take over. Perhaps one or two of the questions you feel are most important could be common to all interviews.

    The interviewer should keep an interested but un-evaluative facial expression (if possible) so that students will not perceive what he wants or expects to hear.

    Summary of Interviewing Pointers

    The following are adapted, with some modifications, from the National Opinion Research Council's Interviewer's Manual, and may be useful as a summary of some obvious but very salient points about interviewing:

    1. Students must feel relaxed and at ease with the interviewer-teacher, to the point where they feel free to say what they really think (or feel) about a given subject without fear of criticism or correction. Be as encouraging, reassuring and supportive as possible without influencing or biasing the content of what the student is saying.

      1. Be a sympathetic, interested and attentive listener, without taking an active conversational role; this is a way of conveying that you value and appreciate the student's opinion.
      2. Be neutral with respect to subject matter. Do not express your own opinions either on the subjects being discussed by the students or on the students' ideas about these subjects, and be especially careful not to betray feelings of surprise or disapproval at what the student knows.
      3. Your own sense of ease is also important. If you feel hesitant or hurried, the student will sense this feeling and behave accordingly.
      4. Students may at first be intimidated by the idea of being interviewed by the teacher. Here, the important thing is to keep the interview very friendy in mood and tone, and non-judgmental.
      5. The students may also be fearful that they will expose an attitude or idea that you don't think is correct. Reassure along the lines of, "Your opinions are important to me." "All I want to know is just whatever you think -- this isn't a test and there isn't any one answer to the questions I want to ask."

    2. Specifically, we suggest that you:

      1. Phrase each question similarly each time.
      2. Keep the outline of interview questions before you.
      3. Be prepared to reword a question if it is not understood or if the answer is vague and too general. Sometimes it is hard not to give an "answer" to the question in the process of re-wording it.
    3. Eliciting full and relevant responses is perhaps the most challenging aspect of interviewing -- the facet of the task requiring the most patience and skill. The general technique for solving these problems is called "probing" - or continued neutral questioning.

      Don't knows . Students sometimes understandably use a "don't know" response to gain some time to gather their thoughts. Don't be in too big a rush to move to another question. If you sit quietly -- but expectantly -- students will usually think of something further to say. Silence and waiting are frequently your best probes for a "don't know." You'll also find that other useful probes are: "Well, what do you think?" "I just want your ideas on that." After a reasonable length of time, however, simply go on to another question.

    4. To summarize: In the interview situation, which is probably somewhat unique to students, your job is to help the youngster give answers which as relevant, clear and complete as he is capable of making them. This is not an occasion to pass judgments on opinions or to clear up misconceptions. Finally, if you wish, jot down or record at the end of the interview anything about the manner, reactions, and non-verbal gestures of the children that may have bearing on their answers to specific topics.


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