An Alaska Anthology: Interpreting the Past by Stephen Haycox, Mary Mangusso

By Stephen Haycox, Mary Mangusso

Alaska, with its Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut history, its century of Russian colonization, its peoples’ bold struggles to wrest a residing (or a fortune) from the North’s remoted and cruel surroundings, and its really fresh fulfillment of statehood, has lengthy captured the preferred mind's eye. In An Alaska Anthology, twenty-five modern students discover the region’s pivotal occasions, major topics, and significant gamers, local, Russian, Canadian, and American. The essays selected for this anthology symbolize the superior writing on Alaska, giving nice intensity to our figuring out and appreciation of its background from the times of Russian-American corporation domination to the more moderen chance of nuclear checking out via the Atomic power fee and the effect of oil cash on green politicians. Readers should be conversant in an prior anthology, Interpreting Alaska’s History, from which the current quantity developed to house an explosion of analysis long ago decade. whereas some of the unique items have been discovered to be irreplaceable, greater than 1/2 the essays are new. the result's a clean point of view at the topic and a useful source for college kids, lecturers, and students.

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Besides, the hunting of nimble sea otters in the open sea from flimsy kayaks with short harpoons was a formidable task that the Natives practiced from childhood and took years to master. It was an integral component of Aleut and Kodiak culture. The German naturalist and physician Georg von Langsdorff, who accompanied the first Russian circumnavigation in 1803-6, found that "scarcely has [an Aleut] boy attained his eighth year, or even sometimes not more than his sixth, when he is instructed in the management of the canoes [kayaks], and in aiming at a mark with the water javelin.

In fact, their expertise with kayaks and harpoons was such that under Russian pressure it contributed to the rapid diminution of the sea otter population.? It was also such that the Russian promyshlenniki became totally dependent upon the Aleuts, not even bothering to learn how to hunt "sea beavers" themselves. Martin Sauer, secretary to the Billings expedition (1785-94), observed on Kodiak Island in 1790 that foxes and ground squirrels were the only animals that the Russians were capable of killing.

In section 6 of the act, Congress provided that the state should select for state ownership 30 percent of the economically viable land in Alaska, 103 million acres. Many Alaskans considered the land provision to be a solemn promise which could not be altered without their consent, perhaps an unrealistic interpretation of constitutional history but one felt keenly in a state where many enthusiastically embraced an image of fierce self-reliance and closely guarded personal freedom. When the state began to propose its selections, Natives responded with competing claims of aboriginal title to many selected areas; from their combined protests arose a new statewide organization, the Alaska Federation of Natives.

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