In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed by Congress. The act extinguished aboriginal title for Alaska Natives. In return, Alaska Native people were compensated $1 billion and were allowed to retain ownership of 44 million acres of land. However, it is important to note that this means Alaska Natives had to give up the rest of the land (380.5 million acres), which was not granted to the corporations, for less than $3 an acre. The original legislation called for creation of twelve profit-making regional corporations and paved the way for approximately 239 village corporations to oversee the money and land. Although Haines, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Tenakee Springs, and Wrangell were historically Tlingit villages, they were not allowed to establish village corporations because their populations were mostly non-Tlingit or there were less than twenty-five Native residents living there at the time. A later ANCSA amendment allowed Ketchikan to form a corporation and receive land. Haines, Petersburg, Wrangell and Tenakee have not yet received lands.
The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) was founded in 1935 and was the first federally recognized tribal government representing the Tlingit and Haida people. It was founded in response to efforts and actions undertaken by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood in their effort to obtain a representative and federally recognized tribal government. An initial function of the Central Council was to bring suit against the United States for aboriginal claims. The Central Council believed the federal government had unfairly taken lands from Native people in Alaska when it created the Tongass National Forest, Glacier Bay National Monument, and the Annette Island Reservation. The Central Council believed the land taken from the Tlingit and Haida was worth $80 million. The government valued the land at $3 million. A court-appointed commissioner estimated the land to be worth $16 million. The Tlingit and Haida were only awarded $7.5 million, however, as it was all the government was willing to pay. William L. Paul, the first Alaska Native lawyer, noted that the value of the timber sold from their forests totaled more than $600 million alone and recommended an appeal. But in 1968 the Central Council accepted the award. Claims for the remaining 2.5 million acres, which included hunting and fishing grounds, were carried over to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
The Alaska Native Brotherhood was founded in 1912. Originally, there were thirteen members: twelve men and one woman. By the mid-1920s, there were chapters, or camps, in many Tlingit villages, and an affiliate organization, the Alaska Native Sisterhood. The brotherhood and sisterhood fought for the rights of Alaska Natives. Their efforts were helped when brothers Louis and William Paul joined the brotherhood. These two men led many of the legal and political battles for the organization.
In 1880, Chief Kaawaa’ee, a Tlingit of the Aak’w Kwáan, led Joe Juneau and Dick Harris to gold. Prior to the gold find, the non-Native population in Alaska was less than 400. After the discovery, thousands of miners and settlers arrived. This put pressure on Tlingit land. The Organic Act of 1884 established a land district (a type of administrative land division) and branches of government in Alaska. The law gave title to land held by non-Native people in the new territory, but did not allow Alaska Natives to acquire title to their land. The first duty of the new land office was to give legal title to mining claims. A number of Tlingit people attempted to file mining claims, but were denied because they were not United States citizens. Although the Tlingit still owned southeast Alaska under aboriginal title (a common law doctrine that the land rights on indigenous people persist even after settler colonialism), they did not benefit from wealth generated by the mineral resources
The Organic Act of 1884 established schools in Alaska for all children. The schools were set up “for the education of children of school age in the Territory of Alaska, without reference to race.” Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary, was the general agent of education in Alaska. He used $25,000
provided by Congress to pay for mission schools set up for Native children. Federal subsidies for church-run schools continued until 1895, when the Bureau of Education assumed control of many Alaskan schools. The United States educational policy was to “civilize” Native children. In school, there were many rules in place that prevented Native children from speaking their traditional language. Often times, corporal punishment was used to discourage Native children from practicing their traditional culture. In 1905, the Nelson Act passed which also established two separate systems of education. The federal government was responsible for Native education, while the territorial government controlled white education.
Kohklux’s map is the earliest known recording of southwestern Yukon. It portrays three-dimensional views of mountains along rivers and lakes that are clearly recognizable. The map is scaled—not in distance, but in the number of travel days between points. It also contains information about caches, villages, events, and living conditions. The map indicates an extensive knowledge of the land and the people. This knowledge was likely gathered from several sources, including both oral history and firsthand experience.
The 1880 treaty was a typical federal policy and practice that failed to recognize Indian land ownership and functioned to transfer power to American hands.
The Navy altered the Tlingit way of life in many ways. For example, the Navy told the Tlingit of American ownership of their former lands and introduced new rules around land ownership and usage. Prior to American confiscation of Tlingit lands, each clan owned and controlled specific geographical areas, and set guidelines for hunting and fishing. In 1881, Commander Henry Glass promoted the signing of a formal peace treaty between the
Stikine Tlingit at Wrangell and the Xutsnoowú Tlingit at Angoon. This agreement contained language that regulated Tlingit hunting and fishing, and removed Tlingit jurisdiction and control over their former lands. The Navy also displaced Tlingit people from their traditional homeland, which violated the 1867 Treaty of Cession.
Alaska History Timeline Narrative
Writing pieces from: The Coming of the First White Man by George R. Betts. (Dauenhauer, Nora Marks, and Richard Dauenhauer. Haa Shuká, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives), and J.F. La Pérouse Visit to Lituya Bay, 1786 (Excerpts from journal. Dauenhauer, Nora, Richard Dauenhauer, and Lydia Black. Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká,Russians in Tlingit America: the Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804).
For generations, the Native peoples of Southeast Alaska lived in unison with the environment and developed rich traditions. Land ownership was not viewed as an individual undertaking; land was owned by groups. Respect for the land was integral to the Native code of survival. Contact with Europeans forever altered the Native lifestyles and introduced foreign concepts of land and natural resources management. While the Russians were harsh taskmasters, to say the least, they did not expect assimilation of Native peoples into Western cultures. That concept appeared with the Treaty of Cession and the governance of America.
For generations, the Native peoples of Southeast Alaska lived in communal clan houses. These houses were the social centers of the communities and intrinsically tied to the people, their ancestors, and their heritage. Early missionaries and government representatives failed to appreciate the importance of the clan houses to the Native cultures. The break down of the clan house system signaled major changes to the Native cultures of Southeast Alaska.
Over time, the Native peoples of Southeast Alaska developed sophisticated art forms. Even many tools that were used every day were decorated with art forms. Stories, songs, and drama were also important art forms. The traditional regalia of the Southeast Natives can show power, wealth, and lineage. Native peoples respect the opposite clan and their ancestors in the making and handling of the regalia. Importance is placed on the maker of the regalia. Members of the opposite clan are asked to make the regalia. Regalia in Native culture are an acknowledgment of all ancestors who came before.
Traditionally, the tools used by Native people were also works of art. These tools included stone adzes and axes, drills, and carving knives made from stone, bone, or shell.
There are many reasons for holding a ceremony. Approximately a year after a person dies, the clan of the deceased holds a ceremony. This ceremony is called a ku.éex’ in Tlingit, wáahlaal in Haida and loolgit in Tsimshian. It is sometimes known as a pay-off party or potlatch, which is a word from the Chinook Jargon. Today, Native Elders have asked the younger tribal members not to use the word potlatch. They have asked them to use their own tribal names for the ceremonies. During a ceremony, the deceased and the ancestors of a clan are remembered. It is a time for the clan members to end a year of mourning. The ceremony is held to remove grief. The ceremony is a time for people to get together with their kin. It is a time to honor the opposite moiety. The opposite moiety comforts the grieving clan. The clan of the deceased repays the opposite moiety.
The Tlingits of Southeast Alaska are divided into two groups called moieties. The word moieties is from French and means “half ”. The Tlingit moieties are Raven (Yéil or—long ago—Laayaneidí) and Eagle (Ch’áak’). In earlier times, the Eagle moiety was known as Wolf (Gooch). The Tlingit who live in the interior in Canada still use the Wolf moiety. All Tlingits are members of one of the two moieties. The moieties are divided into smaller groups called clans. Members of one moiety refer to the other moiety as guneit kanáayi (opposite). All people in a moiety consider themselves related to one another. They are related to the members of the opposite moiety through marriage. Moiety membership is shown using an Eagle or Raven crest. Today, many people wear jewelry or their clan at.óowu (regalia) that show their moiety. In Tlingit life, it is important to have a balance between the Eagle and Raven.
The Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of Southeast Alaska traded amongst themselves. They traded with tribes to the south and north. Many of them made long journeys over rugged mountains and rivers. People traded with others that they trusted and liked. The traders would form partnerships that lasted many years. During this time, people would visit with each other’s families. The would learn some of each other’s language. People exchanged goods up to three times a year. They would meet in places or villages that they had agreed on during their last trading trip. Sometimes it was difficult to decide the value of the goods. The value of goods changed often.
Native peoples inhabited the islands and mainland of Southeast Alaska for at least ten thousand years. The relatively moderate climate of the area and an abundance of natural resources allowed for the development of highly sophisticated cultures. The social organization was complex and the development of Native art flourished. Most permanent communities began as camps or villages, with an economic base tied to fishing, forestry, and/or mining. Employment attracted many Native people to the permanent commercial centers of Southeast Alaska.
Values are the rules that people use to live with one another. Beliefs are what people believe to be right. Not all cultures have the same values and beliefs. The values and beliefs of one group can clash with those of another group The values and beliefs of most Native tribes in North America underwent change or changed completely with contact. Despite this clash of values and beliefs, many Natives today continue to practice elements of their ancestral teachings.
The Native peoples of Southeast Alaska migrated to their present-day homelands via a variety of routes. This included overland and coastal routes. The areas settled by the Tlingits became their kwáans. The inland Tlingit are found in the Yukon Territory of Canada. The Haida and Tsimshian both arrived in Southeast Alaska long after the initial arrival of the Tlingit. The Haida migrated to the southern areas of Prince of Wales Island and the Tsimshian to Annette Island, near Ketchikan.
Tlingit Migration Story (Based on Glacier Bay history) Told by Susie James (Kaasgéiy of the Chookaneidí clan), translated by Nora Dauenhauer. Excerpted from Haa Shuká, Our Ancestors. Sealaska Heritage Institute, Juneau, and University of Washington Pre ss, Seattle, 1987.