Ministry of Education of the Ukraine
Section: Area stadies
Done by Lena Kozachenok
FROM THE LAND CALLED BERINGIA
Origins of Alaska’s Native Groups
No one knows exactly when people first found the land that would be called
Some anthropologists believe that people migrated from Asia to North America
as long as 40,000 years ago. Others argue it was as recent as 15,000 years
Whenever, the consensus is that they came from Asia by way of a northern land
bridge that once connected Siberia and Alaska.
That land bridge, now recalled as Beringia, was the first gateway to Alaska. But
these first visitors were hardly tourists intent on exploring new
worlds. Rather they were simply pursuing their subsistence way of life as they
followed great herds of grazing mammals across the grassy tundra and gentle
steppes of Beringia.
They came sporadically through many millennia.. in waves of different ethnic
backgrounds/generations of people and animals..hunters and hunted. As the Ice
Age drew to an end and the seas claimed the land, these people moved to
higher and drier places--the land that, as the continents drifted apart,
would become Alaska.
Some groups settled in the Arctic. Others traversed the mountain passes to
other parts of Alaska. While still others migrated through Alaska, continuing
on to distant lands--perhaps as far as South America!
Those who made Alaska their permanent home make up the state’s four major
anthropological group: Eskimos, Aleuts, Athabascans, and Northwest Coast
While all four groups shared certain basic similarities--all hunted, fished
and gathered food--they developed distinctive cultures and sets of skills.
Flexible Residents of the Arctic
The Eskimos were primarily a coastal people, setting along the shores of the
Arctic and Bering seas.
For millennia they lived a simple, subsistence life--much as they still do
today--by harvesting the fish and mammals of the seas, the fruits and game of
the land. Somehow they learned how to thrive despite the demanding conditions
of the Arcitc.
Their sense of direction was keen, almost uncanny. Traveling in a straight
line, sometimes through snowstorms and whiteouts, they found their way around
the mostly featureless terrain by noting wind direction, the position of the
stars, the shape and size of a snowdrift.
And they were resourceful. In a land where the summer sun stays at eye-level
for weeks on end, never setting below the horizon, the Eskimos fashioned the
first sun-visor--which also doubled as a snowmask to protect their eyes from
the wind-driven snow!
Nomads of the Interior
Like the Eskimos, the Athabascans were skillful hunters, but they depended
more on large land mammals for their subsistence--tracking moose and
When it came to fishing, the Athabascans were absolutely ingenious, snaring
fish with hooks, lures, traps and nets that are the fascination of modern day
anglers who visit their camps.
Generally nomadic, they lived in small, simply organized bands of a few
families, and whenever possible pitched their camps in the sheltered white
spruce forests of the Interior. Some adventurous tribes, however, wandered
all the way to the Southwest United States to become kin to the Navajos and
Born of the Sea
For the Aleuts, life centered around the sea as they distributed themselves
among the 70-some islands in the Aleutian chain across the North Pacfic.
Life here was somewhat more benign that in the Arctic, though wind storms
were sometimes strong enough to blow rocks around!
Since their food supply was rich, varied and readily available, the Aleuts
had time to develop a complex culture. Evidence indicates that they practiced
surgery and that their elaborate burial rituals included embalming.
Instruments. utensils, even their boats (baidars) were made with amazing
beauty and exact symmetry. And everything was fashioned for a specific
purpose--the Aleuts used 30 different kinds of harpoon heads for different
species of game!
Skilled navigators and sailors, the Aleuts had the dubious distinction of
being the first to encounter the white man...Russian fur traders who took
them as slaves to harvest the fur seals in the Pribilofs.
The Northwest Coast Indians:
High Society of Alaska’s Southeast
The milder, more temperate climate and an unlimited supply of salmon and
other seafood’s enabled the Northwest Coast Indians to evolve a way of life
quite different from the Eskimos, Aleuts and Athabascans.
They settled in year-round permanent villages, took slaves, gave lavish
potlatches, and lived their lives according to the strict rules, rituals, and
regulations of their respective clans. Their artwork was nothing less than
masterful...beautiful blankets, finely woven cedarbark and spruceroot baskets
magnificent totem creations.
From the Russian Empire to the United States of America
Treaty of Cession 15 Stat. 539 Treaty concerning the Cession of the
Russian Possessions in North America by his Majesty the Emperor of all the
Russias to the United States of America; Concluded March 30, 1867; Ratified by
the United States May 28, 1867; Exchanged June 20, 1867; Proclaimed by the
United States June 20, 1867. BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA A PROCLAMATION Whereas, a treaty between the United States of
America and his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias was concluded and signed
by their respective plenipotentiaries at the city of Washington, on the
thirtieth day of March, last, which treaty, being in the English and French
languages, is, word for word, as follows: The United States of America and his
Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, being desirous of strengthening, if
possible, the good understanding which exists between them, have, for that
purpose, appointed as their Plenipotentiaries: the President of the United
States, William H. Seward, Secretary of State; and His Majesty the Emperor of
all the Russias, the Privy Councillor Edward de Stoeckl his Envoy Extraordinary
and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. And the said
Plenipotentiaries, having exchanged their full powers, which were found to be
in due form, have agreed upon and signed the following articles: ARTICLE
I His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias agrees to cede to the United
States, by this convention, immediately upon the exchange of the ratifications
thereof, all the territory and dominion now possessed by his said Majesty on
the continent of America and in the adjacent islands, the same being contained
within the geographical limits herein set forth, to wit: The eastern limit is
the line of demarcation between the Russian and the British possessions in
North America, as established by the convention between Russia and Great
Britain, of February 28 - 16, 1825, and described in Articles III and IV of
said convention, in the following terms: III. "Commencing from the
southernmost point of the island called Prince of Wales Island, which point
lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude, and between the
131st and the 133d degree of west longitude (meridian of Greenwich,) the said
line shall ascend to the north along the channel called Portland channel, as
far as the point of the continent where it strikes the 56th degree of north
latitude; from this last-mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow
the summit of the mountains situated parallel to the coast as far as the point
of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude (of the same meridian;)
and finally, from the said point of intersection, the said meridian line of the
141st degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen ocean. IV. "With
reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the preceding article, it is
understood - "1st. That the island called Prince of Wales Island shall belong
wholly to Russia," (now, by this cession, to the United States.) "2nd. That
whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a direction parallel to
the coast from the 56th degree of north latitude to the point of intersection
of the 141st degree of west longitude shall prove to be at the distance of more
than ten marine leagues from the ocean, the limit between the British
possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to Russia as above
mentioned (that is to say, the limit to the possessions ceded by this
convention) shall be formed by a line parallel to the winding of the coast, and
which shall never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom." The
western limit within which the territories and dominion conveyed, are
contained, passes through a point in Behring's straits on the parallel of
sixty-five degrees thirty minutes north latitude, at its intersection by the
meridian which passes midway between the islands of Krusenstern, or Inaglook,
and the island of Ratmanoff, or Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without
limitation, into the same Frozen ocean. The same western limit, beginning at
the same initial point, proceeds thence in a course nearly southwest through
Behring's straits and Behring's sea, so as to pass midway between the northwest
point of the island of St. Lawrence and the southeast point of Cape Choukotski,
to the meridian of one hundred and seventy-two west longitude; thence, from the
intersection of that meridian, in a southwesterly direction, so as to pass
midway between the island of Attou and the Copper island of the Kormandorski
couplet or group in the North Pacific ocean, to the meridian of one hundred and
ninety-three degrees west longitude, so as to include in the territory conveyed
the whole of the Aleutian islands east of that meridian. ARTICLE II
In the cession of territory and dominion made by the preceding article are
included the right of property in all public lots and squares, vacant lands,
and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifices which
are not private individual property. It is, however, understood and agreed,
that the churches which have been built in the ceded territory by the Russian
government, shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental
Church resident in the territory, as may choose to worship therein. Any
government archives, papers and documents relative to the territory and
dominion aforesaid, which may be now existing there, will be left in the
possession of the agent of the United States; but an authenticated copy of such
of them as may be required, will be, at all times, given by the United States
to the Russian government, or to such Russian officers or subjects as they may
apply for. ARTICLE III The inhabitants of the ceded territory,
according to their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to
Russia within three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded
territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be
admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of
citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the
free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes
will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from
time to time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country.
ARTICLE IV His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias shall appoint, with
convenient despatch, an agent or agents for the purpose of formally delivering
to a similar agent or agents appointed on behalf of the United States, the
territory, dominion, property, dependencies and appurtenances which are ceded
as above, and for doing any other act which may be necessary in regard thereto.
But the cession, with the right of immediate possession, is nevertheless to be
deemed complete and absolute on the exchange of ratifications, without waiting
for such formal delivery. ARTICLE V Immediately after the exchange of
the ratifications of this convention, any fortifications or military posts
which may be in the ceded territory shall be delivered to the agent of the
United States, and any Russian troops which may be in the territory shall be
withdrawn as soon as may be reasonably and conveniently practicable.
ARTICLE VI In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States
agree to pay at the treasury in Washington, within ten months after the
exchange of the ratifications of this convention, to the diplomatic
representative or other agent of his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias,
duly authorized to receive the same, seven million two hundred thousand dollars
in gold. The cession of territory and dominion herein made is hereby declared
to be free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises,
grants, or possessions, by any associated companies, whether corporate or
incorporate, Russian or any other, or by any parties, except merely private
individual property holders; and the cession hereby made, conveys all the
rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the said
territory or dominion, and appurtenances thereto. ARTICLE VII When
this convention shall have been duly ratified by the President of the United
States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the one part, and
on the other by his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the ratifications
shall be exchanged at Washington within three months from the date hereof, or
sooner if possible. In faith whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have
signed this convention, and thereto affixed the seals of their arms. Done at
Washington, the thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-seven. [SEAL] WILLIAM H. SEWARD [SEAL] EDOUARD DE
STOECKL And whereas the said Treaty has been duly ratified on both parts,
and the respective ratifications of the same were exchanged at Washington on
this twentieth day of June, by William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the
United States, and the Privy Counsellor Edward de Stoeckl, the Envoy
Extraordinary of His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, on the part of
their respective governments, Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew
Johnson, President of the United States of America, have caused the said Treaty
to be made public, to the end that the same and every clause and article
thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and
the citizens thereof. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and
caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of
Washington, this twentieth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States the
ninety-first. [SEAL] ANDREW JOHNSON By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
The most important dates in the history of Alaska
- in 1959, Alaska became the 49th State.
- in 1971, the temperature at Prospect Creek, Alaska, dropped to 80
degrees below zero, the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States.
- in 1988, PL 100-241, the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act
Amendments, were signed by President Regan. The amendments gave more flexibilty
to the corporations managing Settlement lands.
- in 1973, the Yukon Native Brotherhood presented a Statement of Claim
to the federal government, stating their position on land claims,
self-goverment and other issues which had been published in January in
"Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow".
- in 1944, the final weld on the Canol pipeline laid on by Bob Shivel,
20 months after the project began.
- in 1951, after 3 years of rumours, the federal government approved
moving the capital of the Yukon from Dawson City to Whitehorse. A new Federal
Building was constructed in 1952, and the Territorial Council chambers were
moved the following year, with the first meeting held in Whitehorse in April.
- in 1924, Carl Ben Eielson made Alaska's first Air Mail flight.
March (day unknown)
- in 1812, the Russian American Company establishes a post at Fort Ross,
California to grow crops for their Alaska operations.
- in 1914, a bill authorizing the construction of the government-financed
Alaska Railroad was signed by President Wilson. Construction started in 1915,
and some sections were opened as they were completed, but the entire line,
running from Seward to Fairbanks, was not completed until July 15, 1923.
- in 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez went aground on Bligh Reef,
pouring almost 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
- in 1964, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.4 on the Richter Scale
hits the Anchorage area, killing 115 people and destroying hundreds of homes.
- in 1975, the first section of pipe for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from
Prudhoe Bay to Valdez was laid. By August, 21,600 people were working on the
project. The first oil was put through the 800-mile line on June 20, 1977.
- in 1867, the United States purchased Alaska for $7,200,000
- in 1951, the Alaska Highway was turned over to Canada, in a ceremony
- in 1898, a series of 5 avalanches in the Chilkoot Pass between 2:00 AM
and noon killed over 70 people.
- in 1919, the Yukon finally allowed women to vote in Territorial
elections. Manitoba had been the first province to enfranchise women, in 1916,
and federal enfranchisement was passed in May 1918.
May (day unknown)
- in 1904, the first commercial wireless communication facility in the
U.S. opened, between Nome and St. Michael.
- in 1906, the Alaska Delegate Act was passed by Congress, giving the
territory's 40,000 people the right to elect a non-voting delegate to Congress.
- in 1778, Captain James Cook entered Prince William Sound.
- in 1778, Captain James Cook entered Cook Inlet.
- in 1894, a resolution of the Privy Council authorizes the North-West
Mounted Police into the Yukon "in the interests of peace and good government,
in the interests also of the public revenue." By June 26, Inspector Charles
Constantine and Staff-Sergeant Charles Brown were at Juneau, heading for the
goldfields of the British Yukon.
- in 1900, Congress authorized a massive telegraph construction project
- in 1898, the ice broke on Lake Bennett; within the next few weeks,
7,080 boats carrying 28,000 people passed the NWMP post at Tagish.
- in 1993, the Umbrella Final Agreement is signed by representatives of
the Council for Yukon Indians and the Yukon and federal governemnts,
establishing the basic format for all 14 Yukon First Nations land claims
- in 1942, a large carrier-based Japanese force attacked Dutch Harbour.
- in 1942, the Japanese landed almost 2,500 troops on the Aleutian
islands of Attu and Kiska. It took a huge Allied force until August 15, 1943 to
regain control - the final invasion force numbered 34,426 troops.
- in 1898, the Yukon Territory is created.
- in 197, the first oil was pumped throught the 800-mile Trans-Alaska
Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
July (day unknown)
- in 1786, while charting Lituya Bay, 2 small boats are swamped by rip
tides, and 21 French sailors drown.
- in 1968, the oil riches of Alaska's North Slope, first reported almost
100 years ago, were confirmed by a drilling program at Prudhoe Bay. The
following year, a total of $990,220,590 was bid in a one-day lease sale of
- in 1882, George Krause becomes the first white man allowed to cross
the Chilkat Pass to the interior.
- in 1913, the first airplane in Alaska made a demonstration flight at
Fairbanks, piloted by James V. Lilly.
- in 1799, the Russian American Company is formed by Royal Charter; they
were given a 20-year monopoly on trading on the coast from 55 degrees north.
- in 1919, Louis Beauvette staked the first silver claim at Keno Hill,
in the central Yukon; by 1930 this district was producing 14% of all the silver
mined in Canada.
- in 1897, the Excelsior reaches San Francisco with the first
large shipment of Klondike gold.
- in 1923, the Alaska Railroad was completed, following 8 years of construction.
- in 1741, Vitus Bering, on St. Elias Day, sights the Alaskan mainland.
In honour of the saint, the most prominent peak was named; this was the first
point on the northwest coast named by Europeans.
- in 1897, the Portland reached Seattle with a large shipment of
Klondike, turning the excitement caused by the Excelsior's arrival at
San Francisco into an all-out gold rush.
- in 1902, Felice Pedroni ("Felix Pedro") discovered gold in the Tanana
Hills, causing a stampede which resulted in the founding of Fairbanks.
- in 1867, Alaska's first post office is authorized, to be opened at Sitka.
- in 1868, the Customs Act is amended to include Alaska.
- in 1900, the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad was completed, with
the Golden Spike driven at Carcross, Yukon.
August (day not known)
- in 1876, twelve whaling ships are trapped by ice near Point Barrow; 50
men die attempting to reach safety.
- in 1896, a party consisting of George Carmack, his wife Kate, Skookum
Jim, Tagish Charlie and Patsy Henderson stake placer gold claims on Rabbit
Creek, and rename the creek Bonanza Creek.
- in 1732, a Russian expedition under surveyor Mikhail Gvozdev sights
the Alaska mainland at Cape Prince of Wales.
- in 1852, Fort Selkirk is destroyed by a group of Tlingits who objected
to the Hudson's Bay Company trying to break the Tlingit monopoly on trade with
the interior tribes.
- in 1912, the Alaska Territorial Act was passed by Congress.
- in 1778, Captain James Cook turned back south, having reached Lat. 71
North, Long. 197 West.
September (day not known)
- in 1848, the Hudson's Bay Company builds Fort Selkirk, at the
confluence of the Pelly and Yukon Rivers.
- in 1871, of the 41 whaling ships hunting in the Bering Sea, 32 are
trapped by early ice; all of the 1,200 people on the ships escaped, but 31 of
the ships were destroyed the following spring.
- in 1898 gold was discovered near the future site of Nome, triggering a
- in 1942, the Alaska Highway opened at Contact Creek, 305 miles north
of Fort Nelson, B.C.
- in 1745, a Russian fur hunter, Mikhail Nevodchikov, reaches Attu in
his search for sea otters.
- in 1895, the North-west Territories was divided into the Districts of
Franklin, Mackenzie, Ungava and Yukon.
- in 1869, the prediction of a total solar eclipse by American scientist
George Davidson so impressed Kohklux, chief of the Chilkat Indian village of
Klukwan, he drew him an incredibly detailed map of a vast part of the interior
of the Yukon and Alaska.
- in 1867, official ceremonies at Sitka transferred Alaska from Russia
to the United States.
- in 1918, the coastal steamer Princess Sophia sunk near Juneau,
killing 463 people, about 10% of the Yukon's white population.
- in 1967, Jean Gordon, the Yukon's first female member of the
Territorial Council, takes her seat.
- in 1741, Vitus Bering died after his ship was wrecked on an island off
the Alaskan coast.
- in 1971, the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed
into law by the President. Among the major provisions were the transfer of
title to 40 million acres of land to native corporations, and a cash payment of